Mitchell’s biggest tourist attraction will be decorated in a circus theme in 2022, following the Corn Palace Entertainment Board’s recent approval.

While the mural designs are not yet finalized, the Corn Palace Board considered a handful of circus theme ideas earlier this month during a recent meeting. Corn Palace Director Doug Greenway led the discussion by pitching his idea for the two large murals along the front of the building.

“I want to have 12 to 13 ideas to send to the designers, and I have a picture of a cool outdoor tent like you would see at an old outdoor circus,” Greenway said. “I know some people only remember the outdoor circus, because that’s how it used to be set up in Mitchell back in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Among the ideas that the board members collectively supported for the two large murals along the front of the Corn Palace included a three-ring circus with some form of a ringmaster. Another idea that was popular among the board members included a scene with a an elephant standing on a ball and a trapeze apparatus.

“Elephant rides were the biggest memory I have from going to the circus as a kid, and I think a lot of kids remember that part of the circus,” said Corn Palace Board member Stratton Havlik. “I think it would be a good idea to include an elephant.”

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The 2022 murals will once again be designed by Dakota Wesleyan University digital media and design students, who have designed the Corn Palace murals since 2019. The process involves the Corn Palace Board members picking rough ideas for the murals, which are then considered by the DWU students during the design phase.

Greenway said he’s planning to meet with the DWU students sometime in February to review the drafts of the murals.

Greenway emphasized the mural designs can include carnival-style scenes. For example, Greenway said cotton candy sticks and popcorn are two items that intersect between carnivals and circuses.

“It doesn’t have to be just circus stuff. It can also include carnival-style circus things like food and games,” Greenway said. “Some outdoor circuses have carnival games, so we could do something along those lines.”

Council member Jeff Smith pitched the idea of decorating a mural with a local Shriner hat, as the Mitchell Shrine Club is the group that organizes the circus each year.

“If we could somehow put the Shrine hat on a mural, that would be cool,” Smith said.

Greenway backed the idea of a Shrine-inspired mural, noting it would highlight a local group that gives back to the community.

For the two large columns that are placed on the front of the Corn Palace, board member Jen Johnston suggested a light-up circus toy design that would be decorated in rye.

Ultimately, Johnston said reviewing what the DWU students come up with over the month will provide a better idea at what circus mural ideas are realistic to complete.

“I think that we should say we are picking whatever we do for our big three murals, but then give DWU roughly 12 ideas for the rest of them and let them run with it,” Johnston said. “I think it will be easier when they give us their ideas back.”