It’s important for travel and tourism brands to communicate the value of their destination to consumers. The goal is for audiences to catch a glimpse at a travel destination without actually going there. Providing them with a sensory experience or memorable moment can convey the benefits of your brand. EMC, in partnership with MMGY, did exactly this by bringing the message of the brand to a top-performing market, Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago has become an increasingly important market for South Dakota tourism due to its broad demographics, including people able to travel. To help build on this momentum, the South Dakota Department of Tourism needed a show-stopping experience that would capture their audience’s attention in a big way. They wanted Chicagoans to realize that an iconic and historic adventure in South Dakota was a short trip away!



EMC worked with MMGY to bring South Dakota’s biggest attraction, Mount Rushmore, to Chicago’s Millennium Park, the weekend before Independence Day. It was the perfect location and timing, as thousands of people were out and about, moving through the park. At one-tenth scale of the original, passersby were granted up-close access to a 22-foot high, 30-foot long replica of the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The structure required over 5,500 pounds of metal and foam materials, and took 30 people more than 2,100 hours to build.

“This type of ‘surprise and delight’ that we can offer in a city like Chicago produces very positive results for us,” said Jim Hagen, Secretary of the Department of Tourism. “This time, we’re bringing the sights and flavors of our unique state to Millennium Park. These events are inspirational to potential travelers to our state and inspire word-of-mouth marketing, which is one of the most powerful tools that we can use.” (KDLT News)



The “rock” formation and some additional attractions created extended attendee engagement and offered ample opportunity for user generated social content, photos and selfies. A climbing wall, modeled after Custer State Park’s Needles region, gave the more adventurous attendees a chance to climb near the presidents’ faces. Attendees were treated to more than 1,000 pounds of free BBQ food, including Bison sliders and hot dogs, watermelon, baked beans and lemonade. To bring a taste of South Dakota to Chicago, Thomas Jefferson Vanilla Ice Cream was trucked-in from its exclusive location at the Mount Rushmore visitor’s center.



Rainy McGrew, EMC’s Director of Insights and Development said, “Contemporary tourists are seeking sharable and memorable experiences. Whether “monumental” or on a smaller scale, events like this are ideal to promote tourism because they allow destinations to share a unique, authentic sensory experience. Actively engaging consumers in this way brings the idea of the destination to life, and allows them to immerse themselves in the potential travel experience.”

The success of the attraction allowed their PR agency to leverage placement in 69 local and national news outlets, yeilding 133,822,742 impressions. Placements included 12 broadcast segments (total audience: 336,154), 24 online placements (total UVM: 99,112,012), and 29 event calendar listings (total UVM: 33,055,356).

Our team has a long history of providing full-service experiential marketing activations for travel and tourism brands. If you need some fresh ideas to engage your audience, or want to execute on a crazy idea and don’t know where to start, then connect with us today!