A steel bull’s head stares out over the prairie next to I-90. It’s the figurehead of the Porter Sculpture Park, a must-see attraction for any summer road trip.
“The prairie makes things look small, so the sculptures that are big when you’re standing next to them are little dots from the interstate. without the bull’s head, I’d have to close up shop. It pulls everyone in.”
The park is just off the Montrose exit, 30 miles west of Sioux Falls. It stretches 3/4 of a mile and contains over 50 metal structures, all hand-made by South Dakota native and park owner Wayne Porter.
In 2010 the park was ranked 33 in Time Magazine’s Top 50 American Roadside Attractions, and in 2015 Slate.com called it “nightmare fuel at a convenient roadside location.”
THERE ARE OVER 50 SCULPTURES ON 10 ACRES.
The 60-foot-tall bull’s head is the park’s main attraction, visible from the interstate and imposing on the wide open prairie. Inside of it are multiple sub-pieces, the most prominent being The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
“He scares people,” said Porter. “If you’re in on the joke you think it’s funny, but if you’re not you wonder what’s going on.”
He said Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was his main inspiration for the inside of the bull’s head. Around The Creature from the Black Lagoon are metal bats and snakes wrapping up and down the walls.
Some other visitor favorites in the park include The Ballerina, a woman scrubbing a floor with pieces of herself missing, and Gold Fish Bowl, a gigantic cracked bowl with goldfish swimming away from it.
THE PARK IS PET-FRIENDLY AND THERE ARE GOLF CARTS FOR THE WALKING IMPAIRED.
Recently, Porter has finished a “monster-sized” 40-ton horse sculpture.
“This has to be the world’s largest metal horse,” said Porter. “It was a son-of-a-gun. It was the utmost of my ability and I’ll probably never do anything like it again.”
He spent 10 years working on the horse, something he said just “had to be done.” A Kickstarter was launched to move the horse from St. Lawrence to the sculpture park, which ends May 5.
“Horses live in my head,” said Porter. “Artists are inspired by their biography. Where you come from matters, and I’m from cattle and horse country.”
Porter started working with metal in St. Lawrence when he was 10 years old. His father owned a blacksmith shop and taught him how to weld. His first sculpture was a small steel bull’s head, which sparked a passion for metalwork that never left him.
“[The ballerina] is scrubbing the floor, and there are pieces gone from herself. The point there is your life isn’t complete until you’ve made your last choice.”
Porter graduated from South Dakota State University in political science and history. He then moved back to Hand County to run a sheep farm. He cared too much for his animals, though, and after becoming a vegetarian sold all his sheep to finance the Porter Sculpture Park bull’s head.
“These animals think and feel and I just had too much empathy for them. I even love coyotes,” said Porter. “If you’re a sheep rancher and you’re concerned about the life of a sheep, you should probably get out of the business.”
Though it is only his work in the park, Porter doesn’t take all the credit.
“My albino dog, Bambino, does the thinking, and I have a pet porcupine that helps,” he said. “I have the opposable thumbs, and my dog has the brains.”
For more information, visit portersculpturepark.com.
VISIT PORTER SCULPTURE PARK
Open Daily 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Memorial Day through September 15.
$8 adults, $4 ages 13-17, ages 12 & under free.
25700 451st Ave., Montrose; take exit 374 off I-90; go South 1/2 mile, and look for the dragon sign.