SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A longtime holiday tradition is lighting up the night at Augustana University, once again. This week marked the 30th year that the school threw the switch on a display that highlights a massive landmark on campus. This mammoth project, for three decades, has cast a prehistoric glow onto the holiday season.
Augustana University is plugged into Christmases past, and beyond, turning this life-size statue of a 13-thousand-year-old Columbian mammoth into a Christmas tree, with tusks.
“It just seems like it’s another one of those points of light that people can drive by and hopefully enjoy,” Augustana University Archeology Lab Director Adrien Hannus said.
The sculpture is modeled after an actual adult mammoth Archeology Lab Director Adrien Hannus unearthed in the Badlands, back in the 1980’s.
“And it turned out that adult stood a little over 14-foot at the front shoulder which made it one of the larger mammoths of a Columbian mammoth that we know of,” Hannus said.
Eugene Anderson welded steel plates together to help Hannus create the mammoth sculpture in 1991.
“I like to work in my shop, but this is certainly the biggest thing I’ve ever built, outside of some buildings,” Anderson said.
Augustana students strung up around 10-thousand lights to illuminate the mammoth. It took them around three hours to finish the project.
“Every time I drive by in the car, I always look for the mammoth that’s lit up because it’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas, honestly,” Augustana Anthropology major Tori Brandt said.
It’s been thousands of years since the mammoth roamed the earth. But lighting this steel statue has brought the campus and the community together for the past thirty years, to ensure the holiday spirit of giving never goes extinct.
“Over the years, I’ve seen it as a gift from me to the campus and to the public here in Sioux Falls,” Hannus said.
The actual bones of the mammoth are kept at the South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City.
The mammoth sculpture is located in front of Augustana’s Archeology Lab annex, on the northwest side of campus.