If you’re in Mitchell, South Dakota, you might want to stop by the popular and eclectic Corn Palace, a local favorite and tourist attraction that is visited by roughly half a million people each year. The structure itself, in its current incarnation slightly resembles a Turkish building, decorated with minarets and domes. What many people come to see at the Corn Palace are its exterior walls, which each year are turned into murals made from corn and others grains. Local artists decide on yearly mural designs. Others come for the many events held at the Corn Palace yearly, including the Corn Palace festival, Rodeo, Polka Festival, numerous concerts and local high school basketball games.
It’s natural to wonder how a building as creative as the Corn Palace evolved. The initial building of the Corn Palace in 1892 was meant to attract potential settlers to the area of Mitchell and South Dakota. The Corn Palace was in the early 20th century a showcase bid for Mitchell replacing Pierre as the new state capital. Though this did not work, the site remains one of historic interest.
The current Corn Palace building was constructed in 1937, and designed by a Chicago architectural firm. The slightly Arabic look to the building certainly did draw visitors and made the building more fascinating. The murals, too, are works of art, not merely haphazard scatterings of grain on the walls. In past years, various themes have been introduced and murals have depicted the faces of Mt. Rushmore, Native American scenes, and scenes of rural life on the prairie. You can buy postcards of past years’ popular designs.
There have been a few occasions where the murals of the Corn Palace have not been replaced. In 1943, the murals were painted instead of designed with grains, since WWII was raging, and grain supply was low. Drought in 2006 forced Mitchell city leaders to conclude that murals of grain should not be used that year.
Regardless of whether you get to see the Corn Palace murals in a given year, a visit to the Corn Palace is as thick in history as maize porridge. You’ll find wonderful things to see at the Corn Palace, and participate in a small part of the history of architecture, that is quite unlike most standard buildings. Do check the schedule of events if you’d like to see the inside of the building, since the Corn Palace is fairly frequently in use for a variety of activities.