Ah, the Corn Palace! What a site to behold! Where else can you see an exhibition hall topped with onion-shaped domes and covered with tens of thousands of dollars worth of oats, sorghum, barley, sudan grass, and oh, how could I forget --- corn. Corn! Corn! Corn! Corn! White corn, red corn, brown corn, yellow corn, blue corn, speckled corn, splotchy corn--- eventually pigeon-pecked corn, thus scoring the Palace its other nickname: THE WORLD'S LARGEST BIRD FEEDER.
The corn isn't randomly stuck on willy-nilly, but each ear is skillfully sliced in half lengthwise with a powersaw, trimmed if necessary with a hand axe and carefully nailed in place, according to large corn-by-number drawings tacked up on tar paper. They are arranged to make murals: largely Americana scenes like pastoral fantasias, wagon trains on the move, Amerindians at sunset, that sort of thing. In 1943 (the same year the U. S. Mint issued zinc-coated steel pennies because copper was in short supply), the murals were painted, because all that grain was needed for the war.
The Palace itself is an exhibition hall, site of rodeos, high school basketball games (what a fun place to play ball!), farm machinery shows, polka parties, and one of the biggest gift shops you'll ever see--an excellent to buy jackalopes, if ever there was one--not to mention the greatest Dakota party of them all, the annual Corn Palace Festival (usually mid- to late-September).
Site visited July, 1996. Location: Follow the signs in town. How can you miss a huge building covered with corn? Entrance to the Palace itself is free, but you can't leave without buying a couple postcards celebrating Corn Palace decorations of years gone by, or a nifty Corn Palace Tilt Pen. The murals change every year, ears of each color corn being put up as they ripen, and the murals assembled one by one, until the Corn-o-rama reaches its heyday just before the annual Corn Festival. After that, it's left to feed the birds and squirrels over winter. So, September seems to be prime viewing time. What a fun place.
The Corn Palace homepage is here. Call 1-866-273-CORN (2676) (the current number) for more info.
From Christine Stewart, Tourism Marketing, Mitchell, SD, 5/20/99:
I stumbled across your website when I was checking the search engines for our Corn Palace website - www.cornpalace.org and I just wanted to say thanks for such a nice story on Mitchell's a-maize-ing ear-chitecture!
It's so nice to hear feedback from visitors, and your website was so clever and interesting.
Have a great summer!
From Pam Van Dover, Director of the Corn Palace Convention & Visitors Bureau, 12/14/01:
I have come across your article several times while checking the search engines for our web site. I always get a kick out of your article.
I wanted to let you know that our toll free number has changed to 1-866-273-CORN (2676). The theme for 2002 is South Dakota Great Events.
Have a happy holiday season.
Pam Van Dover, Director
Corn Palace Convention & Visitors Bureau
A Division of Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce
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