World's Largest Pheasant

Photo opp! Huron’s 28 foot, 22 ton pheasant made of fiberglass and steel is the World’s Largest Pheasant and has affirmed Huron as a premier pheasant hunting destination since 1959.


The South Dakota State Fairgrounds is the largest campground in the state with 1,306 camping sites offering electrical and full hookups.

The new industries have attracted a culturally diverse workforce, including Hispanic men and women and refugees from Burma.

Welcome to Huron!

Huron: A City for Outdoor Lovers

Huron is a welcoming place for people who love the outdoors. Coffee shops and cafes open before the sun rises because farmers, pheasant hunters and fishermen share a love for early starts. Nobody looks twice if you’re wearing camouflage, whether its Sunday morning church or Friday night at a watering hole. You’ll notice that farming and ranching is more than just economics, it’s a way of life that influences business, arts, entertainment and culture. The James River flows through the east side of Huron, while the west is bordered by the 190-acre state fairgrounds. In between are 13,200 friendly people who happily welcome visitors, no matter how early you rise in the morning.

South Dakota’s Unofficial Ag Capital

Every South Dakota town looks like a farm town. The skylines are grain elevators and pickups outnumber autos in the car dealerships. Still, Huron is in a category all its own. The state’s leading farm groups, Farm Bureau and Farmers Union, are both headquartered in Huron. It’s also home to the state fair (which is still a “dirt fair,” meaning cattle, hogs and sheep remain the main attraction). Huron is home to the state USDA offices and two of South Dakota’s leading livestock auction barns operate here — Huron Continental Marketing on the west side and Magness Livestock Market on the east. For a closeup look at the livestock industry, sit in on a cattle sale; it’s a piece of Americana lost to many heartland communities, but alive and thriving in Huron.

How Long Since You’ve Been to the Fair?

It’s often said that South Dakota is one big family, and the state fair is a humdinger of a reunion. There’s food for every taste, but the most popular booths are run by the state beef association and the state pork producers. Pork farmers serve more than 2,000 sandwiches on a good fair day. De Smet Farm Mutual staffers pass out free yardsticks. Mogen’s Heroes, Sherwin Linton and other longtime favorite musicians perform on the free Freedom Stage. Young 4-Hers bathe and comb their calves so they shine for the judges. Dairy students from SDSU sample new ice cream varieties. That’s a few of the hundreds of quaint traditions adored by fairgoers.

The James River: Respected at Huron

The James River (aka the Jim or the Jacques) doesn’t always get the respect it deserves across the Dakotas, perhaps because it runs parallel to the majestic Missouri. But the James has its own character, and Huron pays it proper homage. You don’t even need to leave town to enjoy the river; families like to fish for walleye and catfish at Third Street Dam, just blocks from downtown. At the confluence of Broadland Creek and the James lies an 80-acre lake and small park with a sand beach, pedal boat and tube rentals, concessions, fishing docks and other fun amenities. Two 1-mile walking trails along the James have been established within the city limits. Pontists (people who love old bridges) will enjoy crisscrossing the country roads, searching for early 20th century pony truss bridges that are still in use. The bridges are especially prevalent in Beadle County and Spink, just north of Beadle. The natural habitat of the river valley is also popular with birdwatchers, photographers, hunters and fishermen.

Splash Central: More Fun Than Math

Huronites miss Huron College, which educated students from 1897 until it closed in 2001. The good news is that the pretty college campus has never been so loud with laughter, because it’s now the site of a big waterpark known as Splash Central. It has a Master Blaster water coaster, a free fall drop slide and a lazy river for the rest of us. The colorful pools are surrounded by walking trails, playground equipment and a sensory garden, a nature area of plants selected for fragrance, beauty and touch-ability. A college courtyard pays homage to the serious-minded students and profs who once lived and worked there. Bring a swimsuit.

Marvelous Murals and Other Art Discoveries

Huron’s outdoor heritage has inspired a major mural project. Drive through the downtown district and you’ll discover two dozen huge outdoor paintings by several regional muralists. The murals represent the city’s most visible arts endeavor, but they are just one of many. Campbell Park along Highway 37 (Dakota Avenue) is the site of Thursday night concerts from June to August that have the feel of a Norman Rockwell-style community gathering. Music is appreciated here; community bands also perform in the park during the summer months, and South Dakota’s only community symphony orchestra has several performances a year. Also, walk to the south side of the Crossroads Hotel and you’ll find a larger-than-life bronze of a prairie woman titled Spirit of Dakota. It was created in 1987 by the celebrated artist Dale Lamphere, now lauded for his 50-foot Dignity sculpture that stands near Chamberlain.

Diners: Have You Tried ‘The Mike?’

Corporate restaurants prefer to locate in larger cities, which fortunately leaves Huron with a mix of sports bars that feature great burgers, true Mexican el cafes and other culinary treasures not to be found anywhere else. Ryan’s Hangar Restaurant in the Crossroads Hotel is a family-run diner that started years ago in the airport hangar near town (locals love the “all you can eat” Thursday crab legs and Friday baby back ribs). Manolis Grocery, run by a family of the same name since 1921, is a local hangout that creates amazing bagel sandwiches like “The Mike.” A tiny breakfast nook called Coney Island Café is a favorite of anyone who can find it, and coffee aficionados recommend the soups and sandwiches at Don’t Spill the Beans. We’ve only scratched the surface; every Huron eatery has a story and a specialty so ask around and tell us what you find.

Huron Has a Fair History

Huron’s first state fair happened in 1885, in an era when the event moved from town to town. Huron became the permanent location in 1905, and today its colorful history is preserved at the Dakotaland Museum, located on the fairgrounds. The museum also has exhibits about the city’s most interesting characters, like Sheriff Vernon Miller who turned villainous and sparked the Kansas City Massacre; Gladys Pyle, who championed women’s rights and became a successful state politician and the nation’s first female Republican U.S. senator; and Hubert Humphrey, the 1968 Democratic presidential nominee who lost to Richard Nixon. Humphrey worked in his father’s pharmacy on Huron’s main street before departing South Dakota for a political career in Minnesota. His pharmacy building still has a Humphrey sign in the window, and the Dakotaland Museum offers tours of Gladys Pyle’s family home on Idaho Avenue, an 1893 Victorian.

Enjoy a Taste of the Hutterite Culture

Five hundred years ago, an Anabaptist sect of Christians split from the Swiss Reformed Church in Europe. The Hutterites suffered persecution and even executions in medieval Europe, so when the Dakotas were opened to homesteaders they bravely re-settled on the Northern Plains. Typically, a dozen or more families live together in a bruderhofe (communal colony), working as farmers and craftsmen. More than 50 colonies exist in South Dakota, including several near Huron. Some colonies welcome guests for special bake sales or other events, though Covid-19 has interrupted that tradition. You can still enjoy a taste of the Hutterite culture at two retail stores in Huron — The Colony Shop & More (1161 Lincoln SW) and Wyshbone Market (325 Market St.). The latter is a branch of Dakota Provisions, a large Hutterite-owned meat-packing plant located on Huron’s east side. Both shops sell homemade pies, meats, cheeses, garden produce in season and craft items. Colony leaders note that the recipes and procedures have been practiced and perfected throughout their 500-year history.

More stories on Huron

Huron’s Humanitarian

Hazel Mahone lived nearly every one of her 100 years in Huron. She had been a successful businesswoman in the Beadle County seat, but when she died in 2010 she hoped friends and neighbors would remember her for her “love and concern for people. Buildings, cathedrals, palaces, ruins all were important, but of primary importance are the people who occupied the buildings. All I want to do is be nice to people.”

Huron’s Marvelous Murals

That ag heritage has inspired much of the city’s street art. Murals depict pioneer settlers, the legacy of the fair, agrarian politics, the great ‘82 Land Rush in the James River valley and pheasant hunting. However, other themes are also represented; a 2002 mural honors the USA’s healing from the 9/11 disaster.

A Pheasantless Huron?

Over the course of 60 years, the fiberglass pheasant has been nested in by hundreds of pigeons, bombarded with UV rays and hailstorms, infiltrated with water, and even taken a lightning strike to the head. “If you look up inside that pheasant you can see daylight,” says Schnathorst, adding that some of the original steel mesh frame inside the fiberglass is nonexistent. “So how are you going to strap on to a pheasant and lift it, and not have it cave in with its own weight?”

The Comeback City

It was then that South Dakotans most definitely had to take a harder look at Huron to see past gloomy headlines. Yes, forecasters in the 1980s had been right. Huron would know struggles but, as this state’s history proves over and over, struggles can bring out the very best in South Dakotans. Huron’s residents stepped forward with ideas and, in many cases, their own dollars to move their community forward. Today Huron is a city of 13,000 with a promise of employment for skilled workers.

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