We got off to an early start this morning and arrived at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota at 9:00 a.m.
The World’s only Corn Palace stands as a majestic, uniquely American, folk art icon on the rolling prairies of South Dakota. Mitchell’s first Corn Palace was built in 1892, when the city of Mitchell was just 12 years old. Early settlers displayed their agricultural bounty on the building’s exterior to prove the fertility of the soil and to attract immigrant farmers to settle here. To this day, over 100 years later, the tradition of the Corn Palace continues in Mitchell.
Each year a new decorating theme is chosen and the outside of the Corn Palace is stripped and redecorated with new corn and grains. Over the summer, 3,000 bushels of rye, oat heads and sour dock are tied in bundles and attached. When the crop is ready, 275 thousand ears of corn are sawed in half lengthwise and nailed to the building following patterns created by local artists. This folk art wonder attracts thousands of visitors each year and is the center of community activity within Mitchell.
Today much of the work is done by hand and it is a delicate and detailed process. In early June the border trim of rye and sourdock is removed from the building. The new sourdock and rye is cut, tied into bundles and stapled to the building, typically by the end of July. After the old murals are removed in mid-August, sketches created by local artists are transferred to roofing paper and nailed to the mural panels on the building. These sketches also serve as blueprints, as each color of corn and the area it covers is indicated on the drawing. Just think of it as a large-scale corn-by-number. Thirteen shades of colored corn currently are planted in separate fields to maintain color purity, and the very best ears are handpicked for use on the Corn Palace. Each ear of corn is then sawed in half, shaped and trimmed to fit in the designated spaces, then nailed into place.
This year’s theme was the 2012 summer Olympics. The creation of Olympic athletes with colored ears of corn was amazing. This was my third visit and Sharon’s fourth visit to this wonderful place. Sharon was here in 1962 with her family and she and I visited here in 1992, 1996 and now 2012.
On to our next stop… Waterloo, Iowa!
We departed Mitchell, South Dakota at 11:10 a.m. Our planned route will be to take I-90 eastbound to I-29. We will then take I-29 southbound to Sioux City, Iowa where we will pick up route US-20. In keeping with our desire to minimize Interstate travel, we will travel US-20 eastbound across the entire state of Iowa.
There is quite a contrast between South Dakota and Iowa. The western part of South Dakota is a mountainous region. In the central part of South Dakota there is a vastness of rugged hilly terrain. In the eastern part there are vast areas of agriculture. Iowa, on the other hand, was totally agriculture driven throughout the state on US-20, with vast rolling hills of well maintained farmland.
We arrived at a Walmart in Waterloo, Iowa at 6:40 p.m. This would be our home for the night.