OPINION: Maybe tourists are wrong focus for Palace improvement planFor most of them it is a 45-minute stop on the way to Rapid City and Mount Rushmore, and it will be really hard to change that.
By: Carmen Johnson, Guest columnist
I recently attended a City Council meeting which included some discussion about the Corn Palace. I have been a resident of Mitchell for some 60 years and owned a motel here for 25 years. I feel I am somewhat knowledgeable about the Corn Palace and its use.
I realize we cannot please everyone no matter what is done, but let me state what I feel might be a win-win for everyone in Mitchell. Our guests included people from all over the world and all walks of life, but I would like to limit my view to guest comments in relationship to the Corn Palace.
I was surprised to hear most of the discussion on tourists. Tourists have a place in the picture, but I am wondering what percentage of revenue they contribute? There was discussion on how to keep tourists here longer than 45 minutes. Mr. Haley suggested maybe add more paddleboats at the lake and a pass through the campground. I see liability written all over that one.
Someone else suggested a corn maze maybe on the edge of town. I could see that as a maybe.
I stated that people who stopped at my motel often wondered why corn on the cob was not served at the Corn Palace and others said they thought a café would be in it. So I said, “Not to sound corny, but maybe we could have a lunch wagon in the grass area they hope to have across from the Corn Palace and sell corn on the cob.” There were only a few snickers from the crowd.
Moving the city offices and putting some displays and hands-on things for children sounds reasonable to me, but the fact that it took over three hours recently to give away the rodeo package tells us that people’s schedules are pretty well set before they leave home. Yes, maybe down the road if the activities were listed on a Web page, more people would stop longer, but I don’t see things going that way with limited time for vacations and Mount Rushmore only 300 miles away. I feel getting families to stay in town longer is a hard sell.
I do not see the bus or senior people spending a lot of money at the Corn Palace. Bus people do not have a lot of storage space and seniors — “we don’t need any more stuff, honey.” The truth of the fact is, for most of them it is a 45-minute stop on the way to Rapid City and Mount Rushmore, and it will be really hard to change that.
So then do we really want to spend $35 million for a corn tower, stairs and an elevator? And how about upkeep on the elevator let alone the cost of putting it in and, besides that, where does it go to and what do you see when you get to the top?
Shall I continue? Many of our guests told us so often how well they like to come to Mitchell and the Corn Palace for their activities, be it basketball, darts, wrestling, shows and non-Corn Palace activities such as baseball, bowling, Dakotafest, rodeo, swimming and other events. Mitchell has that hometown feeling, easy to get around in without all the traffic of the larger cities. It is centrally located, has lots of restaurants and motels to accommodate their overnight stays, and when their events are over, they can be home early enough for the children to get almost a regular night’s sleep as opposed to driving from one end of the state to the other and, in some instances, even needing a travel day.
Carmen Johnson, of Mitchell, owned the Anthony Motel for 25 years and retired in 2004.