When I’ve traveled cross-country, people often ask where we’re from or they get a glimpse of my driver’s license (when checking into a hotel)… When we say we’re from Mitchell, South Dakota, it more often than not is followed up by a statement or question like, “I’ve been there! I went to the Corn Palace with my family,” or “Isn’t that where the Corn Palace is?” Our community’s icon has been marketed for almost 120 years and deserves to be one of the first posts to our new blog:
The World’s Only Corn Palace stands as a majestic, uniquely American, folk art icon on the rolling prairies of South Dakota. The building is famous for the huge, colorful murals on its sides, which are redesigned every year. The first Mitchell Corn Palace was built in 1892, just three years after South Dakota became a state – when the city was just twelve years old. The Corn Palace was built as an economic development tool to recruit farmers to the area by displaying agricultural bounty on the building’s exterior to prove
the fertility of the region’s soil. The first two Corn Palaces were tore down, despite popular belief that they burned down. The Corn Palace that now sits on Main Street is actually the third Corn Palace in Mitchell and was built in 1921.
If the Corn Palace stands for anything, it is a good time. Every harvest season for over 100 years, people have come together for some of the best entertainment in the country. In the beginning there were the marching bands like Sousa, followed through the years by an eclectic mix top quality entertainment. Today, the Corn Palace Festival tradition continues. The Corn Palace has always been about more than just the big
name entertainment. It’s a building that brings thousands of visitors to our community each year to view the unique folk art murals. It’s a building that enhances our lives by providing a gathering place for a wide variety of activities such as high school proms, dances, banquets, sporting events and many, many more. In fact, USA Today has named the Corn Palace as one of the Top 10 places to play High School basketball games and called it the Boston Gardens of the Midwest. It’s a building that brings our community together. The Corn Palace has evolved into a one-of-a-kind, multi-use facility with a charm and heritage unlike any other.
The estimated attendance average for sporting events at the Corn Palace over the past five years is 94,809 people annually. Sporting events include cheerleading events, gymnastics events, basketball games and tournaments, youth wrestling meets, and show choir events. The popularity of the Corn Palace for these sporting events and others is the intimacy that the Corn Palace provides to sporting teams and event spectators. While it is important to increase seating to keep and/or increase the number of sporting events hosted in the Corn Palace in the winter months, it is essential that the
intimacy and integrity of the Corn Palace is maintained.
The designing of the mural is a prestigious honor. It started with Col. Alexander Rohe in 1892. Famed American Indian Oscar Howe, was in charge of designing the panels from 1948 to 1971. Cal Schultz took over the job in 1977 and local college art teacher Cherie Ramsdell has headed up the design since 2003.
This year, when the summer days grow shorter and the crops are nearly ripe, the Corn Palace will again be celebrating. The streets will be filled with people. The stage will
come alive with acts that will enrich the legacy of the Corn Palace. See it for what it really is. A celebration of who we are and what we do, and how we spend the little time we have in this world.