Eye On KELOLAND: The history of the World’s Largest Pheasant

Eye on KELOLAND

HURON, S.D. (KELO) – The Ring-neck pheasant is the South Dakota state bird, making the Rushmore state a destination for thousands of people each year for pheasant hunting. But did you know the World’s Largest Pheasant is also stationed in South Dakota?

The giant bird has roosted on top of a building along Highway 14 in Huron for 60 years.

Since 1959 the pheasant has been welcoming visitors to Huron.

“The pheasant was dedicated October 15, 1959 and it was an idea of the Huron Jaycees to bring people in at that time, the world’s largest anything was a big deal,” president and CEO of Huron Chamber and Visitors Bureau, Laurie Shelton said. “When they put it up at the location it is now, that was a premier area for conventions and events, it was state of the art motel that was in that area and recreation center.”

Built out of steel and fiberglass, the pheasant took a little over 4 months to build.

“The gentleman’s name that built it was R.F. Jacobs, he was out of Gooding, Idaho and with him and Huron Welding which they helped to weld the interior structure,” Shelton said.

So how big is the World’s Largest Pheasant? It’s 40 feet long, 28 feet tall and weighs 22 Tons.

Over the years, the pheasant has had to withstand South Dakota weather. Back in July it was repainted and touched up.

In 2011 the bird got a bit of a makeover followed by a rededication.

“There was a restoration committee that got together and so it was completely restored and there was a new dedication ceremony that happened in October 2011, so they did a major rehaul of it, as far as structure wise with the eye beams, those types of things, nothing has had to be changed there, but it’s just the exterior of the shell and with it being 60 years old it is getting a little thin, that fiber glass material, it doesn’t last forever,” Shelton said.

The Dakota Inn neighbors the World’s Largest Pheasant. Hotel manager Tiffany Halling says she sees people stop at the attraction quite a bit.

“We see a lot of traffic come and go over there, the kids enjoy taking pictures over there, I see a lot of them try to put the pheasant on the hands but we do get a lot of people over there to take pictures,” Dakota Inn manager, Tiffany Halling said.

While the bird has been at this location for over half a century, there is a possibility that could change.

The current building it sits on, which is privately owned, is for sale.

The city does have a lease agreement with the pheasant, but that expires in 2020.

“With the building being for sale, if somebody was to buy it, we do as the chamber and visitors bureau have a right of first refusal, which means if somebody makes an offer we can make an offer as well and try to exceed that offer if that was the case, until then we have the lease to maintain it,” Shelton said.

Shelton says they’ve considered moving the ring neck from its roost to a different nesting spot.

“We have had engineers look at it, and even though the eye beams withstood all of our South Dakota weather that we’ve had, they don’t know if the shell of the pheasant can withstand a move, even if it is a short distance, so it really depends on if it sells and what happens next year,” Shelton said.

Even with the uncertainty of the pheasant’s future, Shelton says its an icon in Huron.

“Just like most parts of eastern South Dakota, Huron is known for its pheasants, so we get hundreds from all over the country, we host a ringneck festival, so that is why it was put there and that’s why we continue to use it as a talking point for our community,” Shelton said.

Shelton says last year they put out a survey to community members about the pheasant. She says the overwhelming response is that people don’t want Huron to lose the pheasant.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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