While 99.7% of this trip started out unplanned, I began to make a point to keep my eye out for “checklist” destinations along the road. One of the checklist items on my list was to try and locate some type of corny roadside attraction. One thing I have learned in my travels is that if you keep your eyes open (and drive far enough), the road will not disappoint. This is when I ran into possibly one of the corniest places on Earth…
The World’s Only Corn Palace
This place was visually amaizeing! Yup! I said it… aMAIZEing!
Mitchell, SD’s first Corn Palace was built in 1892 as a way to prove to the world that South Dakota had a healthy agricultural climate. For over 100 years, the Corn Palace has been used as a gathering place where the locals could enjoy a fall festival to celebrate the end of a crop-growing season and harvest.
This tradition continues today with the annual Corn Palace Festival held in late August each year. While I arrived too early in July and was not able to attend the festivities, I did make sure to browse through and support the market vendors that were there.
The Agricultural Show-Place of the World
Not only did the name of this place attract me, but the artwork on the building as well! The Corn Palace is redecorated each year making it “the agricultural show-place of the world”.
Once a theme has been decided, the murals are designed by Dakota Wesleyan University students enrolled in Digital Media and Design courses. They use naturally colored corn, grains, and native grasses to help build their designs and ear by ear the corn is nailed to the building to create the scenes.
The decorating process usually starts in late May with the removal of the rye and dock. The corn murals are stripped at the end of August and the new ones are completed by the first of October. Growing condition can affect production of available materials and may delay the decorating process.
A True Folk-Art Wonder
The Corn Palace is known around the world and is a wonderful attraction to stop and visit. While most might find this type of place to be underrated, I feel they would be mistaken. This single building has helped to promote the local area community to come together over the fruits of their labors. It promotes local public art and uses natural materials to do so.
Additionally, It is more than the home of the festival or a point of interest of tourists. It is a practical structure adaptable to many purposes. Included among its many uses are industrial exhibits, dances, stage shows, meetings, banquets, proms, graduations arena for Mitchell High School and Dakota Wesleyan University as well as district, regional and state basketball tournaments.
If you are ever around Mitchell, SD, I recommend at least driving by to see the outside murals. If you are able to, be sure and check out the additional murals inside as well as the local vendors. If you like public art as much as I do, I promise you will not be disappointed.