Mural Corn Palace sign.

Corn Palace

Field review by the editors.

Mitchell, South Dakota

The drum major of the agricultural parade is corn, the Prairie Gold. Wheat, rye and sorghum have their boosters, but it's corn that fattens our hogs, sweetens our muffins, and puts gas in our tank and starch in our shirt collars.

The needle of the corn compass points to Mitchell, a prairie town that is corn crazy and proud of it. Mitchell's high school sports teams are the Kernels. Its local radio station's call letters are KORN. And it's home to the "agricultural showplace of the world," the Mitchell Corn Palace.

Corn Palace, 1908.
Corn Palace, 1908.

The Palace, with its mad mix of onion domes and minarets, looks like it was drop-kicked out of czarist Russia. It was originally built in 1892 to show off the fertility of South Dakota soil and lure settlers. It was rebuilt in 1905 and then again in 1921 -- and that version has remained on the job ever since, luring tourists now instead of farmers. Rival "grain palaces" in Plankinton and Sioux City succumbed to the rigors of prairie weather decades ago. The Corn Palace, a shrine to a superior foodstuff, has survived (And upgraded its domes in 2014).

Mitchell's Corn Palace is built out of reinforced concrete, not corn. Every spring, however, its exterior is completely covered with thousands of bushels of native South Dakota corn, grain and grasses that are arranged into large murals.

View of the Corn Palace, 1914.
View of the Corn Palace, 1914. (Courtesy Mitchell Corn Palace)

Typical yearly themes are South Dakota Birds or A Salute To Agriculture or Youth In Action. Locals take great pride in the Palace's "corn-septual art" and "ear-chitecture" (Mitchell isn't called the Corn Capital of the World for nothing).

The Corn Palace serves as an auditorium for touring celebrities (Lawrence Welk played there five times), as a sports arena for the various Kernels teams, and as the headquarters of Corn Palace Week, the apex of Mitchell's yearly social calendar.

Corn Palace Week marks the end of the harvest -- and the beginning of the planning for next year's Palace theme.

A drought in 2006 was so tough on local corn crops that for the first time the Corn Palace skipped its annual redecoration. A drought nearly as bad in 2012 almost did the same thing, but the Palace was able to get by with fewer than its usual 12 natural colors of cultivated corn. An unusually wet 2019 pushed back corn mural construction into 2020.

Space Mission in Corn.

The Corn Palace has one more title (ours) - the World's Largest Bird Feeder. After Corn Palace Week ends and winter sets it, local pigeons and squirrels make a feast of the tasty murals.

Corn Palace

604 N. Main St., Mitchell, SD
I-90 to Mitchell. North on Hwy 37 (Burr Street). Left on Havens Avenue. Right on Sanborn Boulevard. Left on 7th Avenue for three blocks; free public parking.
Currently under reconstruction. Open daily (summer) 8-9; off-season Sa-Su closed. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Cornelius, Corn Palace MascotCornelius, Corn Palace Mascot, Mitchell, SD - < 1 mi.
Valtiroty Shiloh's TabernacleValtiroty Shiloh's Tabernacle, Mitchell, SD - < 1 mi.
Big Steer and BisonBig Steer and Bison, Mitchell, SD - < 1 mi.
In the region:
White Buffalo Statue, Huron, SD - 46 mi.

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