Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

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Front of the corn palace with two of the murals.

          All photos by Dan Wentzel

 

The tradition of featuring unusual attractions along the highways to capture the interest and money of all the tourists lives on. There are so many stops you could make. Some totally worth their cost, some free and some would not be too great regardless of price. But, with this attraction you will not need to hide your pocketbook. You pay no admittance for this one of a kind attraction, the only one in America.

Mitchell, South Dakota was platted in 1879. In 1887 this town became an incorporated village. The first corn palace was built in 1892 with the purpose of showing visitor’s the fertility of the soil to attract more settlers. The corn palace has been moved to another location but, the same purpose is still alive. The exterior and interior is the showcase for the world famous murals made entirely of corn, rye and sourdock. Many of the murals have celebrity pictures such as Elvis and Willie Nelson along with other subjects of historical interest.

The building is truly a palace in design but, the visitors come mainly for the many murals. Though many additional events take place during their Corn Palace Festival. This year it is held between August 24-28.

The manner in which these murals are created is quite intriguing. The technique is mainly done by hand. First sketches are made and transferred to roof paper. What looks like a paint by number work is nailed to the panels where the mural will remain permanent for about two years. Every two years the murals are changed to a different subject. The sketch indicates which of the 13 shades of corn will be used in the drawing. First the cobs are sawed in half. They must then be trimmed and shaped to fit the exact spot designated. Then they are nailed to the panel. The corn is local and 275,000 ears of corn decorate the murals. The rye and sourdock are used as fillers and trim between the murals and removed in June and new bunches put back up. This process is completed by late July. During this time, it is easy to spot those responsible for the transformation and obvious how meticulous the work is as they dress the building for the current year.

There is a movie about how it all began. A snack bar and gift shop along with a nice interactive education center for children. We even sat in a combine which showed a movie so you felt like you were harvesting the corn and doing the work without breaking a sweat or getting tired of course. During the festival many other features exist and so do rides.

Worth a stop on your agenda when visiting this part of South Dakota.

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