Armchair Field Trip: The Corn Palace

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At this time, we'd like to introduce you to the other new member of this ensemble, InternStacy Conradt, who's currently a graduate student at Iowa State University. Please give her a warm welcome. "“ Mangesh & Jason

I was driving to Sioux Falls, S.D. the other day and let me tell you, the drive from Des Moines to Sioux Falls is not particularly thrilling. It's so dull, in fact, that I found myself consulting the atlas just for fun (disclaimer: I do not endorse the act of map reading while driving). I discovered one of those "places of interest" printed in red, fairly close to my destination: The Corn Palace. The Corn Palace?! How could I stay within an hour of a place called The Corn Palace and not check it out?

walldrug1.jpgOnce I had finished in Sioux Falls for the day, I hopped in my car and headed to Mitchell, S.D. The drive wasn't nearly as boring as I expected, because peppered along the highway every few miles were signs extolling the virtues of Wall Drug. Alas, Wall Drug is located on the west end of the state, far out of my driving range. It's a shame, because after reading for 60 miles about its gemstone mines, life-size dinosaurs, free ice water and genuine oil paintings for sale, I was pretty intrigued.

I also passed signs for the birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and was a bit mystified when I saw this from afar:

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Turns out it was a sculpture garden"¦one that was closed for the season.

Anyway, on to the Corn Palace. Mitchell had only been in existence for 12 years when the first Palace was built in 1892. If a building decorated with corn cobs sounds a little strange to you, then Mitchell's founding fathers accomplished their goal "“ they wanted to build something out of the ordinary to put the town on the map. A second Palace was built in 1905 to replace the original when it was deemed too small. Finally, in 1919, something called "building codes" were invented. In 1921, the Corn Palace's wooden structure (with dirt floor) had to make way for the steel and brick building that still stands today.

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The decorating method is pretty simple: varying shades of corn cobs, grown by one local farmer, are sliced in half lengthwise and nailed to the building. The corn in accented by bundles of milo, rye, oat heads and sour dock.

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The exterior décor is removed every summer and a new design is put in its place. You can see from the picture that the 2007 "Salute to Rodeo" theme is currently being replaced by 2008's "Everyday Heroes." It takes about 550,000 half ears of corn to cover the entire exterior.

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The building isn't just pretty, it's also functional "“ local schools (high school and colleges) play basketball games there. I know you're curious, and yes, the high school team is called the Mitchell Kernels.

If you visit Mitchell and you're not totally satisfied by your Corn Palace visit, there's more fun to be had across the street at the Enchanted World Doll Museum.

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Because I don't want to have nightmares for the rest of my life, I declined.

So what about you guys? What strange local landmarks have you visited?

Previous Armchair Field Trips:

Portugal
The International Spy Museum
Utah
Intercourse, Pennsylvania
Ogunquit, Maine
Aquinnah, Massachusetts

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September 26, 2007 - 6:35am
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