'I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.' L.M. Montgomery

'There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.' Irving Stone

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Corn Palace and the Prairie

Mitchell, South Dakota is the home of famous Corn Palace. First 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 there. They had a festival to celebrate agriculture and the productivity of the people each fall. Each was a big deal in town. Over a 100 years later the tradition continues.

First Corn Palace  built in 1892
Second Corn Palace built in 1905

The current Corn Palace
 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. Roughly 275 thousand ears of corn are sawed in half lengthwise and nailed to the building following patterns created by local artists. It's kind of like color by number!


We got there at a good time this trip and got to see them working on it. These guys are attaching the fringe borders. The corn parts had already been done. There was a large table to the left of the big white truck with several college age fellas tying up the fringes.

Here is a close up shot of one of the displays to give you an idea. They use 12 different varieties of corn to get all the different colors.

The Palace is used as a one-of-a-kind , multi-use facility and the center of community activity. They host basketball games, stage shows and trade shows among other activities. In the summer there is a museum type display set up inside and a large gift shop with everything corn! The inside is also decorated with the corn murals.

It's located close off the Interstate 90 and a nice break from driving. If you travel out that way stop by and check it out!

Here's a few more pics from the South Dakota prairie along the way. Such a barren sort of place. As we drove along I thought about those homesteader so long ago coming out here from the east and how difficult it must have been for them. It's very dry, not many trees and quick moving wicked storms. You can see them coming for miles. It's really quite neat. It gets so black on the horizon and you can see wicked lightning and then the wind starts and it just gets up to a howl and the rain and lots of times hail. We did get caught in one on a previous trip and we had to find an underpass to get under, away from the hail. I felt bad for those cows all huddled together in the field getting beaten by the hail! Got to watch one come in this trip too but no hail just blinding rain and wind. Scary driving in it. My hubby said 'you better put your seat belt on'!

Black skies. It was lightning in the distance and eventually made it to us!

Nothing just brown as far as the eye can see! No real crops just cattle occasionally a sunflower crop as we got further west

Lunch break at prairie dog area. They were all over and you could feed them peanuts.

 From the time you hit the South Dakota line you see Wall Drug signs everywhere. They work! By the time you get half way there you've decided yo have to stop and see what in the world Wall Drugs is!

It started as a drug store in 1931. Not much business, small town and poor people. They started offering free ice water to thirty travelers and thus Wall Drugs was born! Today it is about 2 blocks long, lots of shops and a restaurant. Panning and mining for fossils and gemstones, Lots of old photographs line the walls, lots of Indian history, large dinosaurs and some movie set items. One shop has the walls lined with deer antlers of all sizes with the dates and places they were taken. Some strange looking antlers there! It is a nice break after driving for hours across that godforsaken land! There is a parking lot behind it and you can sleep in your travel trailers there. We did that one trip. And you still get free ice water!

Quite hunk isn't he!

Coming in November this year to PBS is a new Ken Burns series on The Dust Bowl. I have my calendar marked so I don't forget! It all about the 1930's drought out on the prairies and the dust that took over. Here's a clip...

Watch The Dust Bowl Preview on PBS. See more from The Dust Bowl.

Watch The Dust Bowl Intro on PBS. See more from The Dust Bowl.

The prairie covers many states, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma... each state a little different. We did spend time in Minnesota once and I think I liked it there the best. I found this wonderful link to a site that chronicles one families move to the prairie. Lots of old photos and actual letters. Hear first hand what living in a sod house was like and experience the wicked storms. Check out There are no Renters Here 


  1. I think of those settlers coming from the east where there were mountains and hills to 'protect' them. I know the flat land was easier to farm, but I couldn't live with all that openness. Isn't it funny, the locales we are comfortable in. I knew a woman who came here once from the midwest, and was so uncomfortable with the mountains all around her.

    1. So true Nan. I told Dave driving thru Wyoming I would go mad living here!

  2. It's all very exotic because of course we can't grow corn husks here, outside of a heated greenhouse anyway, and thanks for showing Dave and the prairie dogs together, I had an idea they were bigger than they are. I was glad to read that the sod house wasn't nearly as bad as it sounds, but those poor girls look so sad.
    I think that we all feel more comfortable in the kind of countryside we were brought up in, it's that 'not the hills of home' feeling.

    1. You guys must have high grocery prices with pretty much everything being imported! Can you get good ears of corn in the store though? Yes the up close pics make the prairie dogs look bigger but they are small. And everywhere! They dig tunnels like crazy. We had to be very careful in the parking lot so as not to run them over coming out of their holes. I guess cattle step in their holes and break legs. Ranchers hate them.

  3. Great pictures. Glad you enjoyed your trip through the prairie. It's been home my entire life (Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska) - yet I've never seen the Corn Palace. We'll add it to our list of trips we want to make.

    Thanks for sharing your photos.


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