Oh, the sweet smell of August in the heartland, when the air is thick with not only high humidity but the almost palpable anticipation of the year’s grand event – the installation of the Mitchell Corn Palace’s new murals. Thousands of people from not just the esteemed South Dakota areas, but from across the entire country, flock to witness this spectacle. So let’s grab a handful of popcorn and get kernel deep into the behind-the-scenes magic.
The Corn Palace, or the ‘I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter’ building, is a marvel of maize architecture that undergoes a substantial construction project each year. Under the watchful gaze of Doug Greenway, Director of the Corn Palace – not related to any greenways, by the way, purely a coincidence – the outside murals are replaced every year.
This year’s theme is “Famous South Dakotans.” And considering South Dakota is teeming with famous folks like…um…well, there’s…you know, the…okay, let’s skip that part. Instead, let’s meet one of the five hardworking students who designed the murals.
Mesa Bartmann, a Dakota Wesleyan University senior, could barely hide her excitement when she found out she’d be designing the Corn Palace. According to her, being entrusted with designing the murals was akin to winning the Nobel Prize for Corn Artistry (should such a category be introduced in the future, of course).
For those not in the know, the process is as laborious as it is corny. It begins in June every year and culminates in the holiday season, just before South Dakota becomes a chilled corn casserole. When asked why the construction doesn’t start immediately after the previous year’s murals come down, Greenway just chuckled mysteriously. The possibility of cornstalks needing time to grow and dry was conveniently overlooked, as was the question of what calamities might befall the Palace if Mother Nature decided to send early snow.
Last year, for instance, the 2023 theme was benched due to the extreme drought that wreaked havoc across the state. A move that left everyone asking, “Can’t we just use canned corn?” Unfortunately, no one deemed this suggestion worthy of a response.
In early November, the Corn Palace board meeting will be held to brainstorm the theme for the 2025 murals – presumably after a heated debate on whether the popcorn served should be buttered, salted, or caramel. Until then, all we can do is wait with bated breath and husk-covered hearts. Rest assured, any news related to the World’s Only Corn Palace will be served hot and buttered, right here.
So, there you have it, folks. Each year, the Corn Palace molds itself into a grand spectacle, a testament to South Dakota’s love for corn, art, and chance of getting caught in a popcorn storm. And remember, it’s always corn’n time in Mitchell! So, slap on your best corn-stalk tie, raise your corn-on-a-stick high, and join in the grand celebration of all things corn.