Friday, December 16, 2011

CORN PALACE of Mitchell

On our journey from Minneapolis towards Rapid city in South Dakota, we reached a town in South Dakota called "MITCELL" in the afternoon.

Mitchell is known for its famous "CORN PALACE".   The corn palace was established in the year 1892 and is now 119 years old.   Corn Palace is the brain child of two distinguished gentlemen, L O Gale and Louis E Beckwith.   Their desire to provide a place for the farming community to gather and enjoy a fall festival – to celebrate a climax to crop-growing season and harvest, before the long chill of winter sets in the area.  It was desired to be a place to stage entertainment, place for display of products and competition to give prizes to progressive farmers who excelled in crop production.  Col. Rohe of Lawrence, Kansas was selected to decorate such a place and Mitchell at that time was only a 12-year old town with 300 inhabitants. Funding was by local community and the place became a popular center for festivity among the nearby areas. Originally a wooden structure measuring 100'x66' fully covered with corn was constructed and later due to large participation of local community another 100'x42 feet area was added.  There were no celebrations between 1894 and 1899 due to drought.  The corn palace was relocated in 1905 and a third palace was built in 1921.   A general overhaul was done in 1964 and brought to its present location and extended to an area of 125'x145'.   The corn palace is now a popular tourist spot in South Dakota and has put the small town with a present population of 15,000 on the tourist map.   Located on the popular US-90 highway, it attracts nearly a million visitors every year.

The present corn place is a fine structure and more than a home for a farm festival: it is a practical structure adaptable to many purposes – conventions, industrial exhibitions, dances, stage shows, meetings and other activities of civic interests.  The civic auditorium in the palace is made use of as a multipurpose hall and available for any group to hold a large event.  There is a basketball arena within the palace and the annual match between Mitchell High School and Dakota Wesleyan University in the winter is a major event in the area.   Rides and Carnival attractions are made available on festival occasions.   A gift shop is located within the palace and local artifacts are displayed for sale.   Proceeds from the gift shop are used to improve the palace and redecorate the same.  Photographs of the palace with decoration of earlier years are displayed along the walls of the palace.

Only native corns of the South Dakota region like Maize, Oats, Barley, and local grasses are used to decorate the palace.  Each year a different theme is used to decorate the palace with different colored grains – red, purple, yellow, white, calico and other colors to make it as the agricultural show of the world.   3000 bushels of grain is required for decorating the palace and entire corn is contributed by the local community. Corn and grass together give different colors like white, red, yellow, blue, pink etc. and a beautiful sight to the visitors.   The palace is illuminated at night and cultural festivals are held.   Birds feed on the corn during winter and the Corn Palace has earned a name as the world's largest bird feeder!

We were taken round the palace in a 20-minute guided tour.  The guide explained the history and significance of the Corn Palace .  After some more time in the palace we purchased a few small items in the gift shop and came out of the palaceThere is a Doll Museum near the palace displaying more than 4800 old and new dolls which is worth visiting.   There is also a Pre-historic Indian Village Museum and Research Centre in the area.

Among the purchases we made in Mitchell was a set of three T-shirts for ten dollars. The T-shirts have a logo of the STURGIS Motorcycle Race. These T-shirts evoked inquiries later on  in different places and people asked whether I am a motorcycle enthusiast and take part in Sturgis Rally.  Sturgis is a place in South Dakota which holds an annual Motor cycle Rally.

Harley-Davidson Motor cycles are very popular and are custom made to meet the requirements of individual customers.  In one rest area I met a man who was vigorously polishing his Harley-Davidson motor cycle.  I asked him about the motorcycle and he told me that it would cost more than 50,000 dollars which makes it more expensive than most cars.   He also told me that it takes hours to clean, polish and keep them in shape. It is used in the summer months, may be a maximum of six months in a year, and is a passion for the riders. Camping and hiking gears are carried on the motor cycles and week end tours on the motor cycle are enjoyed by them. 

We resumed our journey and reached a place called Chamberlain on the banks of the river Missouri by evening.  After an early supper we went to the river bank for a drive on the bridge to the other side of the river, and after watching the beautiful sight of the flowing river and the hills returned to the eastern bank of the river.  There is a camping ground on the riverbank with the bridge in the background.  We sat there enjoying the beauty of the flowing river, the bridge, hills and the sunset.  We took many photos and returned to the hotel

The memories of the quiet beauty of the mighty Missouri will always remain in our memory.

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