You don’t want to just stand outside, taking photographs—head for the entrance. There is no charge for entering the Corn Palace, and there is plenty to see inside. In the lobby, the walls are covered with historic photos and timelines of Corn Palace history, along with photos of the mural themes through the years. The support columns are shaped and tiled to look like giant ears of corn.
As mentioned in the previous post, the murals on the inside have much longer lives than those on the outside. However, they are as impressive as the murals outside.
Around the periphery of the main arena, there are great exhibits on corn through the centuries, including background on harvesting, whiskey-making, and processing–plus an opportunity to test out Native American tools for grinding corn. (Here, you just see the sign explaining grinding, but near the sign, you’ll find the large and heavy equipment that once represented the only way to make cornmeal.)
There are also videos running constantly about the Corn Palace, Mitchell, and South Dakota in general (especially all the dramatic stuff out west, such as the Badlands and Mount Rushmore). While it wasn’t yet opened when I visited, they are currently creating an art gallery on the second floor, dedicated to long time mural designer and South Dakota artist laureate Oscar Howe (more on him in a later post).
Of course, free entry doesn’t mean you won’t have the opportunity to part with a little money. When there are no basketball games or concerts, the main floor is taken over by a nearby gift shop, and the array of stuff for sale is astonishing—and while some is kitschy, there is much that is wonderful.
There is also an abundance of food, both among the souvenirs (popcorn being especially abundant—and great, I can happily report) and from the “corn-cession” stands, which offer snacks and beverages.
So definitely come inside when you visit Mitchell.