Corn Palace is "Amaizing"!
In Mitchell, South Dakota, corn is for more than the birds.
The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. (Photo:Courtesy Corn Palace Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Have you ever seen a building made of corn? How about a palace made of corn? While not exactly a royal residence, the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, is a major tourist attraction—it draws more than half a million visitors a year.
The building is actually made of concrete, but decorated with thousands of ears of corn. Workers split the ears in half lengthwise and fasten them to the walls with nail guns.
There’s a lot more to the corn palace than nailing up ears of corn, however. Every fall the corn is replaced to form a mural. It takes about two months to complete each year’s picture.
Most of the murals are designed by Cherie Ramsdell. She draws a version of the mural on special pieces of black tar paper and numbers each spot on the paper to symbolize a different color of corn. It’s like putting together a gigantic paint-by-number picture!
Other murals have been designed by Oscar Howe, the famed Native American Indian artist.
This year’s theme is "Everyday Heroes." The illustrations will show people like teachers, policemen, doctors, parents, and crossing guards.
Corn’s a Poppin’!
So why cover a concrete building with giant corn murals every year?
The first Corn Palace was built in 1892 to show off South Dakota’s great agricultural climate. South Dakotans wanted the world to know their state was a great place to farm.
The building became so popular it couldn’t hold all the visitors who came to see it. In 1905, it was torn down and rebuilt. That building soon proved to be too small, too.
The current corn palace was built in 1921. Eighty-six years later, it is again considered too small, and may be replaced with an even bigger building.
Many different events happen inside the Corn Palace. The Shrine Circus, sporting events, concerts, and even Mitchell High School’s graduation take place there. Some famous people who have performed at the Corn Palace are The Three Stooges (1961), Willie Nelson (2005), and Raven Symone and LeAnn Rimes in 2006. The Harlem Globetrotters have performed there, too.
For the Birds
The Corn Palace is often called the world’s largest bird feeder.
“The birds do like the corn,” says Corn Palace director Mark Schilling. “ We have found they like the yellow corn the best because this is the hybrid corn and has the softer kernels. So each year we put the other colors down where the birds can reach it easiest and that way the birds are not as big a problem.”
Although Schilling says the corn is soft, that’s only by a bird’s standards. If you touch the corn, it feels hard and bumpy. That is because it is uncooked.
Local students say the Corn Palace is an “aMAIZEing” place to visit.
“I like it because you can watch basketball games and there are cool pictures,” says Maritza P.
Adam R. says, “I like it because it is a part of our history.”
It is such an important part of the local scene that school athletic teams are known as the Mitchell Kernels.
Every August, Mitchell, South Dakota, hosts a Corn Palace Festival. This year’s festival will take place August 22-26.
For more information on the Corn Palace, visit their Web site. You can see actual pictures of the murals on the live web cam!
Tours take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day and admission is free. See you there!
Emma Feldman is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.