Prior to our RV'ing life we had never heard of the 'World's Only Corn Palace' in Mitchell, SD. But many have told us that if we ever got in the area we should take the time to visit the palace. We had no idea what to expect and were pleasantly surprised. It took us about 2 hours to go through both the inside and outside, but I suppose if you were in a hurry you could do it in 30 minutes or so. Admission is free which is pretty amazing. There aren't many 'tourist attractions' that are free these days! And parking was plentiful and easy, even for an RV.
We learned that the first Mitchell Corn Palace was built in 1892. Early settlers displayed their agricultural bounty on the building's exterior to prove the fertility of the region's soil. The current Corn Palace is actually the third in Mitchell, but it's purpose hasn't changed. The building is famous for the huge, colorful murals on its sides, which are redesigned every year.
Today much of the work is done by hand and it is a delicate and detailed process. In early June the border trim of rye and sour dock is removed. 3,000 bushels of milo, rye, oat heads, and sour dock are cut, tied into bundles and stapled to the building typically by the end of July. After the old murals are removed in mid-August, sketches created by local artists are transferred to roofing paper and nailed to the mural panels. These sketches also serve as blueprints, as each color of corn and the area it covers is indicated on the drawing. Just think of it as a large-scale corn-by-number! Twelve shades of colored corn are currently planted in a separate field to maintain color purity, and the very best ears are handpicked for use on the Corn Palace. Each ear of corn is then sawed in half, shaped and trimmed to fit the designated spaces, then nailed into place by local artisans. Roughly 275,000 ears of corn are used to decorate the murals each year.
Throughout the years since the Palace first began there have been quite a variety of different themes featured in the murals. 1911 was an Egyptian motif. 50 years of South Dakota statehood was featured in 1939. In 1944 they featured a war theme. Scenes from the old west were shown in 1959. Mother Goose rhymes were the theme in 1971. 1992 was the centennial and featured murals from past years. The 2010 theme was "Through The Ages" depicting various modes of transportation and travel. As you can see in the pics, work has begun for the 2011 theme, 'American Pride'.
A history of the Corn Palace is presented inside, along the walls, of each year since its inception. Well done and interesting to us. I've read a few forums on the Corn Palace and many find it, well, 'corny'. Not us, we found it interesting and fun!
The Corn Palace also serves as a multi-use center for the community and region. The facility hosts stage shows, as well as sports events in its arena. USA Today named the palace as one of the top 10 places to play high school basketball games & called it the Boston Gardens of the Midwest. This year's Corn Palace Festival was held August 25-30th and we understand was a smashing success. The 30th Annual Polka Festival is Sept 17-19 with 3 bands performing in the arena. But we'll be back on the road by then so we'll have to polka somewhere else along the way, lol!
I'm posting a large amount of pictures today. I hope you enjoy them. As I said, we really enjoyed the Palace. There is an enormous effort put into this building every year, and it stands as a reflection of the people around it, hard working, friendly, honest...just salt of the earth good people. So we say, if you find yourself barreling down 1-90 headed somewhere, take an hour or two, stop, stretch your legs and come see the Corn Palace!