Saturday, January 12, 2008

Night Ranger Day, Rapid City, SD

Digging back into the archives for some "old school" stuff!

August 30, 1985 was one of the crowning moments of my concert photography career. Not because I took any photos that I would call earth-shaking that day, but because of what happened and how.

I was a 22-year-old intern at the South Dakota Department of Tourism and heard that Night Ranger was going to be playing in Rapid City on their "Seven Wishes" tour. I was a fan, having seen them on both of their previous national tours and I was anxious to see if I could get a photo pass for the show. Using every angle I could when I got the band's publicity manager on the phone, I told him I worked for the "Governor's Office of Economic Development, Division of Tourism" (which was true, we just didn't use the full title very often). Apparently he was impressed.

He asked if it was possible to have the governor proclaim "Night Ranger Day" in South Dakota. I said, "I don't know, I'll ask." The answer was, "Yeah, he does that for people's anniversaries, so why not?" Next question was, "Can you have the governor present the proclamation to the band at Mount Rushmore?" "I don't know, I'll ask."

"No probably not, but why don't you call the mayor of Rapid City." So the mayor's secretary told me, "As long as we don't tell him exactly what it's about, he can be there."

Next the publicity guy wanted limousines for the trip from Rapid City to Mount Rushmore, sandwiches and snacks in the cars, etc., etc. I was amazed that each time I said, "I don't know, I'll ask," I got a positive answer. At some point there was no turning back, so the requests were all granted. Even if it was just an idiot intern asking.

Now I think to call Mount Rushmore and let the Park Service know when we will be there. They aren't very excited about the idea, but tell me it will work as long as there isn't a large crowd of rowdy teenagers hanging around. I assure them it will be the band, the mayor, me and the news media.

So I called the news media to alert them that we have this unbelievable opportunity for them to cover. The Rapid City Journal asked me a million questions about how this happened and why the state was promoting this specific concert. What I wasn't aware of was that this was an actual interview for a story in tomorrow's newspaper. So the story breaks, and now all those rowdy teenagers know when to show up at Mount Rushmore! Oooops!

Well, August 30, 1985 arrives and I meet the band at the Hilton Hotel in Rapid City. The limos that I booked over the phone turn out to be rundown Lincoln Continentals that are usually used as taxi cabs with Indian chief stickers on the doors. Really impressed the band, I'm sure. When we pull into Mount Rushmore we see a crowd of teenagers awaiting our arrival. Because Night Ranger's current hit song at the time was "Four in the Morning," there are a couple kids with a big sign that says, "We've been here since Four in the Morning!" I got dirty looks from the park rangers.

Anyway, the mayor looked a little amazed at what he had agreed to do, but he read the proclmation and posed for pictures with the band. The fans all got autographs and pictures, and the park rangers lived through the whole thing.

I spent the rest of the day hanging out at the hotel and the pool with guitarists Jeff Watson and Brad Gillis (above). Although the band was great, the concert was kind of anti-climactic after all that. The barricade was so tight to the stage that I wasn't allowed up close for photos, so the best shots were from the balcony as seen here.

Ever since that day, I don't know how many times I've had people say "I remember that, I heard about it on the radio," or "I was at that concert! The state should do a promotion like that again!"

When Cody and I saw Night Ranger at the Corn Palace in 2007, (see earlier post) I took the Mount Rushmore picture above to show the guys. Brad Gillis had a vague memory of getting the key to the city "or something." Jack Blades said, "No, that was Night Ranger Day in South Dakota! Wait a minute, we're in South Dakota!" We all got a good laugh out of that.

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