There are times that I do feel sorry for my family, especially Crystal. It should go without saying that I am a fan of dad jokes, what with being a dad. When I was planning the route for our Epic Road Trip, I realized it would take us past Mitchell, South Dakota. This would offer us a chance to see one of the most unusual man-made attractions on our route. The Mitchell Corn Palace draws thousands of tourists each year, but there are scads more that have no idea this place exists. As we explore this unique destination, be aware that you may encounter some very punny remarks.
Cornering the Market
Way back in the late 1800s, many cities across the Great Plains were looking for ways to promote their fertile lands. The invention of the crop palace soon allowed the towns and cities to showcase the local crops. Usually, these would consist of grains and corn. The goal was to attract more farmers to their community. These structures would often be multi-purpose arenas that served as community centers. The Mitchell Corn Palace was constructed in 1892. The original wooden building was replaced in 1905 and again in 1919. The current structure represents the “World’s Only Corn Palace” left in existence.
Corn You Believe It?
Each year the Corn Palace hosts a festival to celebrate their annual redecoration. As luck would have it, our trip landed us in Mitchell on the weekend of their 100-year celebration. Even with a swollen crowd, we were able to find parking nearby the heart of the action. The Mainstreet that runs in front of the palace was filled with carnival rides and vendors. We passed by the rides, but explored the various items being offered up by the vendors. You never know when you’ll spot the perfect souvenir to remind yourself of this historic stop.
Stalking the Mitchell Corn Palace
You can see by our photos that the Mitchell Corn Palace is decked out with amazing murals. The surprising feature is that all of these creations are made with corn, grains, and native grasses. Each year they start from scratch and design new murals based on the designated theme. We learned that there are 12 different colors and shades of corn. We never realized there were that many options. The ears are split in half and nailed in place to create these amazing scenes.
Walking around the corner of the building, we discovered a large patio area. This side of the structure has more murals to view, as well as offering some history about the palace. They even had a stage set up for local musicians to entertain the crowds. Late August, in South Dakota, offers the perfect weather for outdoor adventures. We would have loved to spend some time soaking up the tunes and sunshine, but our Epic Road trip still had a schedule.
Popping Inside the Corn Palace
There was no way that we were going to skip a chance to see the inside of the Mitchell Corn Palace. Stepping through the front doors, we found ourselves in a large foyer. Here they have more historical information about the structure and the annual event. They also showcase some of the other artistic pieces that have been created with corn. We noticed a large staircase, and curiosity got the best of us. It led us to the entrance to a large arena, where staff members were preparing for some evening entertainment. We also discovered more murals, as well as photos from past years. What a fun tradition.
We’re All Ears
The Mitchell Corn Palace was certainly a one-of-a-kind stop. With three attractions under our belt, in the first day, we were on our way to building an amazing multi-state itinerary. There have been many road trips that encompass multiple states, but this one was going to rival our travels along Route 66. Mixing together natural and man-made attractions was giving us a great cross-section of America. As we wrapped up the late afternoon of our first day, we made our way back out onto the open road. Our lodging was still an hour down the highway and we didn’t want to miss the last hours of daylight, just in case there was some unmarked attractions along the way.