As I mentioned a few posts ago, I recently embarked on a driving trip through the northern section of the greater Midwest. I covered a lot of territory and learned a lot of fascinating stuff. Now I get to share some of that with you.
This was not my first time in South Dakota—I’d seen Wall Drug and Mount Rushmore on a previous trip—but it was my first visit to Mitchell and the famous Corn Palace. I would discover that Mitchell had more to offer than this famous venue, but this was what drew me there.
I cover the history of this Corn Palace and others in Midwest Maize, so I won’t repeat that all here, but there is a lot more to know about this iconic Heartland destination than its general history. First and foremost is that it’s a lot more impressive than I had imagined based on the photographs I’d seen. It’s a huge venue, with a massive concert/theater stage and full-size basketball court, plus all the seating needed for those who are drawn here. However, even more surprising to me were the corn murals. In photos, one sees the images, but in person, one can see the staggering amounts of corn and the craftsmanship and hard work that go into creating the murals.
More than 275,000 ears of corn, all in natural colors, are grown each year to create the murals. Each ear has to be sawn in half lengthwise, so that there is a flat side to affix to the palace wall. Everything is done by hand. And it’s fabulous.
Those numbers are just for the outdoor murals. The indoor murals represent even more corn. However, because they are not exposed to weather and hungry birds, they only have to be replaced once a decade, as opposed to once a year for the outdoor murals. (More on the inside of the palace in the next post.)
This year, 2015, is the 125th anniversary of South Dakota’s obtaining statehood, so the theme for this year’s murals revolves around aspects of state history, from Native Americans to settlers to the State Capitol. Since the Corn Palace is more than 120 years old, that means it got started very early in the state’s history. It was being renovated when I was there, so the domes were not in place, but there was still enough magic to make me glad I’d gone.
I hope these photos help demonstrate how large and how remarkable the Corn Palace is.