Sandhya Dirks

Sandhya Dirks arrived in Iowa in January of 2012 as a general assignment reporter. Since coming to Des Moines she has covered the Statehouse and traveled across Iowa to bring back stories for IPR. Sandhya was previously a reporter at KALW in San Francisco, covering education and criminal justice issues. Her work was awarded a SPJ Sigma Delta Chi and a regional Edward R. Murrow award.

Most recently, Sandhya earned her Master of Science from Columbia Journalism School in New York. Her master’s project was an investigative documentary about international adoption for which she was awarded the Pasty Preston Pulitzer Documentary Fellowship.

Sandhya’s favorite public radio program is Radiolab.

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Around the Nation
5:02 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

A Century-Old Grotto That Might Out-Glitter Vegas

Father Paul Dobberstein began building the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa, 100 years ago. It's covered with stones, rocks, petrified wood and seashells.
Denise Krebs via Flickr

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 5:11 pm

The Midwest is known for its roadside attractions — world's largest ear of corn, heaviest ball of twine, biggest truck stop.

But it's also home to one of the largest collections of grottoes in the world. Most of these man-made caves were created by immigrant priests at the beginning of the 20th century. And the mother of them all — encrusted in $6 million worth of semiprecious stones — is in West Bend, Iowa.

This weekend, the Grotto of the Redemption turns 100.

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