Drought conditions threaten Corn Palace muralsExisting murals could be left in place another year.
By: Chris Huber, The Daily Republic
The murals on Mitchell’s Corn Palace could become a casualty of the drought. High temperatures and insufficient rain have stunted some of the fields in which the colored corn planned for this year’s Corn Palace murals is growing. “It’s one of those things we’re monitoring day by day,” said Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling. “I am constantly talking to Wade (Strand, the corn grower for the Corn Palace) about where we are in the process.”
The Corn Palace Festival Board will discuss the issue during a Tuesday meeting at City Hall. The board will due a walkthrough with grower Wade Strand on Friday.
“Right now we have a couple of colors that aren’t doing very well, but we will have to wait until the meeting before anything is decided,” Schilling said.
One option is to keep the current murals in place another year.
“That is obviously something we don’t want to do,” Schilling said, “but sometimes we don’t have a choice in the matter.”
The last year the Corn Palace murals were not updated was 2006, because of a drought that year. Before that, in 2002 only some of the murals were updated. The only time the Palace went without decorations, as far as anyone knows, was during World War II, when the crops were conserved for the war effort.
“2006 was a different situation because we knew it was very dry going into the year,” Schilling said, “but this year we had high hopes and the rain kind of shut off.”
He believes leaving the murals unchanged for a year would not significantly impact tourism numbers at the Palace, which counts upwards of 200,000 people through its turnstiles each summer.
Wade Strand, of rural Mitchell, has a $47,500 annual contract with the city to produce the crops used to decorate the Palace. Schilling said the city will still honor the contract if the corn is not used this year.
It takes about 275,000 ears of corn to decorate the Corn Palace, Schilling said, but between 350,000 and 400,000 ears are picked to find enough healthy, full ears.
The city uses a four- or five-person team to affix the corn to the murals on the building’s exterior. Should last year’s murals remain in place, those people would not be hired for that part of the decorating process.
Part of the annual decoration process is already taking place. Bundles of rye are being affixed to the side of the building to create borders around the murals. A 15-person staff, largely consisting of high school and college-aged students, is used for that portion of the decorating.
Should last year’s murals remain in place, Schilling said it might be a good opportunity to start some renovations on the outside of the Corn Palace. There have been discussions about making murals larger and removing awnings for more mural space.
Schilling said if last year’s murals are left up, it might work well to start renovations, because construction crews would not have to tear into a new mural.
This year’s planned mural theme is “We Celebrate,” with murals depicting holiday scenes. The theme “Saluting Youth Activities” is currently on the building.