Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mitchell, South Dakota: Corn Palace

It's easy to scratch your head when pondering the name "corn palace." At first glance they don't seem to be words that go together.

But they certainly do in Mitchell, South Dakota. About a half-million people per year walk through the front doors of the place, making it one of the state's biggest tourist attractions.

The outside of the structure is the main attraction. It is topped by architecture that would feel right at home in the Kremlin in Moscow. But the murals on the outside walls are the big story. They are created with colored corn, and changed every year. You can see some samples on the pictures here.

Most people don't know what is inside the Corn Palace - at least we didn't before our visit. It's actually more of a hall. There are a few thousand theater-type seats, and a stage. A few concerts were booked for the week we were there. Between the stage and the seats is a basketball court, so obviously this is the glamor spot for teams of the state. I don't know if teams from Mitchell High School - the Kernals, of course - play their games here. The walls have more corn murals, except that they are permanent.This is the third such structure with the Corn Palace name, opening in 1921.

You'd think that this would be a great place for several educational exhibits on corn, but it's limited to a video. There are guided tours if your timing is right (ours wasn't, sadly). The souvenir shop is reasonably sized and has some good items. I found the caramel popcorn bar in the shape of a corn husk a little chewy, but it sure was fun to buy it.

The Corn Palace is easy to find - follow the signs from the Interstate - and it's located in the middle of downtown next to City Hall at Sixth and Main. And it's free. If you need an hour break from driving, this will work perfectly.

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