Corn Palace

Once upon a time, Dakota was a mere territory. Thousands of families took up the offer to homestead  160 acre tracts for five years, and “flooded” the area. When Mitchell, South Dakota was a mere few thousand residents strong, it vied with Pierre to be declared the state capitol. Pierre had a grains palace to entice visitors, and Sioux City had tried to have a corn palace, but failed to make it work economically after a few years. Once Sioux City gave up, and Mitchell was looking for something to distinguish itself, they made a corn palace, and it even made money for them.

The current Corn Palace is the third iteration of it, the other two proving to be too small for the city’s needs. John Philip Souza performed in the original one, and the photos of the crowds were amazing, filling the streets for blocks. There was even a special train from Chicago to bring visitors to Mitchell for the original 10 day festival. It was a huge success, distinguising Mitchell as intended, making people realize that growing corn was doable in South Dakota, but Pierre still won as state Capitol. And Mitchell kept its Corn Palace.

Not made entirely of corn, as I thought from the pictures I saw, it is instead a permanent building with an entirely corn based facade that changes with a determined theme every year.

Corn Palace Facade Detail

Corn Palace Facade Detail









The halls of the palace are filled with photos of each year’s theme, and so you can find out what was considered important on the minds of the residents for any given year. They have made it easier in recent years by actually naming the themes. For my birth year, it seems as though things in the world were pretty idyllic and peaceful with dancing and boating depicted. Your guess is as good as mine.

Corn Palace Theme of 1966

Corn Palace Theme of 1966

10 entirely different colored corns are grown specifically for the palace, in separate plots to keep the colors as true as possible, and utilize something like 1,000 acres for each year’s design. The artists use a scheme similar to paint by numbers, and shave the corn into shapes that fit the design.

Insert Colored Corn Here

Insert Colored Corn Here

So there you have Mitchell, South Dakota and its famous corn palace. Definitely worth it, considering it is free. Its importance in a historical context is interesting, but otherwise it is just a big building filled with corn-associated gew-gaws. They do hold concerts and basketball tournaments and plays in the auditorium, but otherwise it is still performing its function over a hundred years later, of attracting the passing tourists to Mitchell.
Corn Palace Destinations Theme 2009

Corn Palace Destinations Theme 2009

Interestingly enough, this year’s theme is America’s Destinations. And looking at the five destinations depicted on the front, I just so happen to be visiting 4 of the 5 this year. All but the shuttle launch. No visiting Florida in my immediate plans for this year.

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