Posts Tagged ‘corn palace’

Corn Palace

June 8, 2009

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.

The Road Disappears

June 6, 2009

So yesterday, as I was driving through the lightning storm that always seems to happen as I drive through Eastern Montana, I thought, great, I’ll visit Sturgis (see what the big deal is), swing by Deadwood (see if there is anything historically interesting to visit) and if not, head on down to the Crazy Horse Monument and be there when the gates open at 7 am.

Great plan!

After the construction on the 212 as soon as I hit South Dakota (with signs warning me 20 miles in advance that the delay could be as long as 30 minutes, and to please take alternate routes if at all possible – why do they not mention that when you get on the highway, rather than once you are already committed?), the rain began to fall steadily. I think I need to replace my windshield wipers. But at least my window is clean now, all the better for taking pictures.

Workers

Workers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I make straight away for Sturgis. Yes, that Sturgis. Home of the Annual Road Rally, fortunately not until early August. Is there something special about Sturgis, South Dakota that draws all those motorcyclists there, or is it just a friendly place in general?

Downtown Sturgis

Downtown Sturgis

 

Friday night, and I find my answer. It is a party town! As I was filling my gas tank, there was yodelling and wooping and hollering. I drove down the main drag, and there were a plentitude of bars, all with many a large pick up truck parked out front. So this is Sturgis.

 

 

Back on the road, I hit Deadwood. The lightning and rain continued, and Deadwood is now a gambler’s paradise. One armed bandits beckoned, and there seemed to be a sizeable number of tourists partaking. The buildings are done up to fit in easily with the brick multi-storied originals, and it is one long business lined street, probably not that much different from how it originally sprung haphazardly into existence. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was disappointed that so much of the original has been commercialized.

However, the next town over, Lead, seemed to have more of what I was looking for. Built on a steep incline, it kept going and going, probably because it only could fit into a narrow one or two block width ravine. The people in this town, 3x as large as the present population of Deadwood, were happily asleep. Following the ravine down, I ended up back at an edge of Deadwood again. Now I headed south, out of the Lead-Deadwood loop. Off to Crazy Horse.

Of course I didn’t make it. The winding road, also under construction and with much faded lines to guide me, took its toll. I began to wonder where I might pull off short of the gates to the monument, when what should appear but a gas station all lit up but with no one in attendance. I stopped to eat. I felt better. I looked around. There were other cars parked on the peripheries. I joined them and took a snooze.

Turns out I was a mere 14 miles from my destination. But the difference was I woke up to a bathroom readily available.

Crazy Horse Monument was holding its annual Volkswalk event, and the gates had been open since 6. For a mere $3 fee, I could walk to the top of the monument. I asked at the gate could one normally? And was told it normally cost $125 per person. What a bargain! So put it in your calendar for future events: annual walk takes place on either of the days of the first full weekend of June. It gets quite a turnout, I noticed as I pulled out and a string of cars were still pulling in to participate.

The Crazy Horse Monument is not complete. It is still being worked on. The original sculptor has died, and his model is being followed by 7 of his 10 children. His wife, 18 years his junior, continues to supervise the construction and the welcome center. It’s a family affair, and exists entirely on donations and no federal funding. Blasting still takes place. Night time blasts continue to take place at least two nights of the year: June 3rd, the anniversary of the original blasting, and September 6th, the death date of Crazy Horse, and the birthdate of the original artist/sculptor/engineer, Korczak Ziolkowski.

So this is what the completed sculpture will look like:

Korczak's Plaster Model

Korczak's Plaster Model

And this was what I was able to see:

View of the Mountain

View of the Mountain

The massive size of the completed sculpture will dwarf Mt. Rushmore. The four heads of the president will easily fit in Crazy Horse’s head.

So off I dutifully drove to Mt. Rushmore. Needless to say, given the current weather conditions, it was a pass. I will just have to make another trip. Perhaps later in the summer.

It is now well into the day, and I have been waiting for the fog to lift. It really hasn’t. It is time to get on the road again, while there is still daylight to help differentiate the whiteness. This is what the road conditions looked like earlier today, and they are little improved:

What Road?

What Road?

Wish me luck as I am Corn Palace bound!