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Seth Davis, of Smithfield, Va., takes a picture with his cell phone Tuesday of the Corn Palace's Cornelius statue with Davis' hat on it. Davis said he saw the Corn Palace online and decided to stop while on his way to start a new job in Seattle. (Chris Huber/Republic Photo)

Corn Palace director: 'We're pleased with numbers'

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Corn Palace attendance during the 2010 tourist season fell slightly compared to 2009.

According to Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling, 279,020 people passed through Corn Palace turnstiles from April through August this year, compared to 279,130 in 2009. That's 110 fewer people, a drop of 0.04 percent.

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"We're pleased with the numbers," Schilling said. "As people looked at, it fell in line with other numbers across the state.

"Here is a breakdown of the Corn Palace turnstile count by months this year:n April: 6,969;n May: 24,688;n June: 72,511;n July: 107,248;n August: 67,604.The season didn't get off to a blazing beginning, Schilling said."We had a very slow early start in April and May because Easter fell when it did," he said.July is usually the biggest month, and this was the busiest July at the Corn Palace since 2003, Schilling said.August was a bit slower than expected or hoped for, he said."People are really uncertain why," Schilling said. "It could be the way the Sturgis numbers fell."The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which was held a little later than usual this year, often reduces visitor numbers, especially at family-oriented attractions, he said.The August totals need a bit of interpretation, according to Schilling."That does not include anyone who was here for (the Corn Palace) Festival, concert attendees and things of that nature," he said.The count only reflects the number of people who come just to see the Corn Palace, Schilling said.A turnstile count is also kept for September and October, he said. So far, September looks promising, but Schilling said one slow weekend can alter that.Wanda Goodman, media and public relations manager for the South Dakota Office of Tourism, said it's been a good summer for the state."Hotel occupancy and demand in 2010 are outpacing 2009," Goodman said. "Hotel occupancy in each of our four tourism regions increased year-over-year from January through July 2010."As of Tuesday:n State park visitation is up 9.7 percent.n Mount Rushmore visitation is up, though varying statistics were provided to The Daily Republic.The Rally was good for the national monument, as 17,600 people visited Mount Rushmore on Aug. 10. That's the biggest crowd since daily records started being kept in 2000.Mount Rushmore attendance was up during the 70th annual Rally, according to park rangers.n The Rally itself drew more than 600,000 people, according to estimates, and the crowd was believed to be 20 percent larger from 2009.The South Dakota Department of Transportation said incoming traffic during the Rally was up 16.7 percent over last year.In 2009, DOT monitoring sites at eight locations in and around Sturgis counted more than 394,000 vehicles entering Sturgis during the weeklong annual rally. This year, the same counters indicated nearly 460,000 vehicles entered Sturgis between Aug. 9 and Aug. 15, the official dates of the rally.n Minuteman Missile Site visitation was up 14.6 percent.n Wall Drug visitation was up 7 percent in July.n Tourism promotion tax receipts are up 1.8 percent. The fiscal year runs July through June, so this reflects just a couple of months, Goodman pointed out.Here are Web analytics for www.TravelSD.com:n 11.1 percent increase in unique visitors.n 8.1 percent increase in page views.n 13.3 percent of online visitors spent increased time on the site.

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