Mitchell shops fight for festival exposure
Businesses along the west side of the 400 block of Main Street hope for a clearer path to their doors during the Corn Palace Festival this year.
During the last few years, a tent has been set up on the sidewalk between the former Moonlight Bar and former Complete Career Center buildings, blocking sidewalk traffic to the Fifth and Main building and the multiple businesses within. Business owners are worried it will happen again during this year's festival, which begins at 3 p.m. today and runs through Sunday.
Since Dakota Candy Company opened three years ago, a large funhouse carnival attraction has blocked the business' front each year.
"It kind of forms a dark, spooky alleyway. I wouldn't want to walk back there," said Justin Clark, owner of Dakota Candy Company, which is on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street.
He said the festival used to set up more toward the middle of the street and kept clear of sidewalks to allow foot traffic to stores.
Carey Clark, owner of J & J Computers in the Fifth and Main building, isn't as affected by the blockade, but said his son Justin's business along with others on the block -- like Crazy About Cupcakes and Fashions Unlimited -- are affected. He is concerned the area doesn't get enough exposure during the week, causing many festival-goers to bypass the businesses.
Mark Schilling, Corn Palace director for the city of Mitchell, said a few festival attractions will be moved to draw more people to the west side of the 400 block of Main Street. The antique tractor display will be on Fifth Avenue between Dakota Candy Company and Dakota Scents, for example. The Freedom Stage and inflatable rides will be set up in the parking lot on the northeast corner of Fifth and Main.
"With more things over there, hopefully we'll get more people to walk by," Schilling said.
The tent that blocked the sidewalk the last few years contained a ball-throwing game, and it will be in the same spot or possibly moved a little more toward the street. Schilling said it will be out from the sidewalk enough to give pedestrians enough room to walk through.
"We try to have access for all businesses so we can get people in there walking down the streets," he said.
Schilling added that if the sidewalk in front of Dakota Candy Company and the other businesses is still as dark this year because of the funhouse's shadow, he's willing to set up lights.
Schilling said he fields concerns like this every year and works with businesses to create the best atmosphere.
"We want people to come down here. We're trying hard to find balance for everybody," he said.