Whiskey Myers, Johnny Rivers to headline 2021 Palace Festival, as planning begins

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Music fans watch Aaron Watson play on the outdoor stage during the Aug. 27 Corn Palace Festival performance in the parking lot adjacent to the Corn Palace Plaza. Corn Palace officials are considering to utilize the same setup for the 2021 festival. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Planning for the 2021 Corn Palace Festival has officially begun.

After battling through the pandemic during this year’s 2020 festival, which saw several concert cancellations, Corn Palace Director Doug Greenway is eager to host Whiskey Myers and Johnny Rivers at the 2021 event. While the festival is roughly eight months out, the Corn Palace Entertainment Board received an update and discussed potential ideas for the late August 2021 festival during Tuesday's meeting.

“It will be exciting to have Whiskey Myers and Johnny Rivers play next year, and we hope and expect they have a good turnout,” Greenway said. “I know many people were excited to see Whiskey Myers this year, but COVID-19 put a damper on that.”

The remaining lineup of music artists who will be playing at next year’s festival are still being determined, Greenway noted. However, he is hoping Mount Vernon country artist Weston Frank can perform the opening show for one of the two major artists who are contracted to play at the 2021 festival, which are Whiskey Myers and Johnny Rivers. Johnny Rivers is slated to kick off the music entertainment on Thursday night, while Whiskey Myers is on board to play the Friday show. Official dates for both shows that will take place during the festival in late August are still being finalized.

Whiskey Myers, Blackhawk and Oakridge Boys were among the biggest country artists that opted to cancel their shows that were scheduled for the 2020 festival due to COVID-19. Greenway said the country music group Blackhawk is still uncertain to play during next year’s event.


Another notable change this year’s festival implemented as a safety precaution was the outdoor stage that the shows were played on. While the 40 foot portable stage was costly to bring in and set up in the parking lot adjacent to the Corn Palace Plaza, the board is considering bringing it back for another outdoor concert at the 2021 festival. According to Greenway, the portable stage came with a price tag of nearly $20,000. Despite the changes, last year’s shows saw attendance numbers hover around 500 to 800 people.

“Whiskey Myers could potentially be the outdoor show, and the board is certainly considering it,” Greenway said. “I was a little nervous with the outdoor venue and stage setup, but it was well received. People who went seemed to really enjoy the setup, so it is being strongly considered again.”

As COVID-19 continues spreading at a rapid rate around the area and nation, Greenway is cognizant that events are subject to change just as they did at the previous festival. Greenway said the uncertainty of the pandemic has led to the decision to sell tickets at a later date closer to the scheduled shows.

“Normally, we offer tickets to go on sale around Christmas time. But with COVID-19, we likely won’t begin selling those until the spring,” he said. “We have to be careful and not sell tickets too early like we did with the Oakridge Boys and then have it cancelled prior to the show. It was quite a tricky process returning all of the tickets for that show.”

Considering this year’s carnival took a financial hit from the pandemic, which Greenway said saw revenue dip about 50% compared to past festivals, he is optimistic that the virus will be under enough control to allow for a more “normal” event next year. But with the Corn Palace Plaza and the portable stage, Greenway said it provides a nice outdoor option for the shows if needed.

Last year's relatively new setup and location for the amusement rides and vendors will remain the same for next year’s festival as well, Greenway said. It will mark the third year that the festival has been positioned further north on Main Street, taking place between Fifth and Ninth Avenues.

Judging by the positive feedback he and other city officials heard from the fairgoers last year, Greenway said the northward location shift for the carnival is expected to remain for the foreseeable future.

“Overall, we have been happy with the feedback on the relatively new location from the carnival attendees,” Greenway said. “We are really hoping for a traditional year, so we can have a normal festival. It will allow us to also bring back some more rides.”


Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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