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Cornstalk Music Jam to be an outdoor first for Mitchell

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The Corn Palace is taking the show outside.

For what appears to be a first in Mitchell's history, the Corn Palace is sponsoring the inaugural Cornstalk Music Jam on July 6 at the Horseman's Sports Arena, where the Corn Palace Stampede is annually held.

The show will include three well-known country music acts for one ticket, starting at 4 p.m. on July 6, and will be headlined by Rodney Atkins, with Tracy Lawrence and Mark Chesnutt providing opening acts. Tickets are $58 for the entire day.

Corn Palace Director Scott Schmidt told The Daily Republic this week that the Corn Palace has traditionally crossed off hosting events in the summer months in the arena, because its tourist gift shop is set up on the event floor. Schmidt said an outdoor music event has been discussed for a few years, and the idea finally got serious last year.

"We put in our requests last year in August and September for these acts, which is the same time we start booking acts for the Corn Palace Festival, as well," Schmidt said. "We don't have the ability to have a show at the Corn Palace in the summer months, so we've been looking at different venues and our options over the last few years."

Schmidt said he's still working with Horseman's Sports Inc., the group that owns the rodeo grounds, and the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo committee, to finalize details, which include organizing the parking, alcohol sales, concessions, and crowd control. The cost of renting the Horseman's Sports Arena hasn't been finalized, Schmidt said.

"It's a little bit different getting an outdoor show off the ground," Schmidt said. "We're pricing out stage equipment, lights and stagehands. But I think there's a lot of excitement about this, because I don't think Mitchell has ever had this quality of acts all playing on the same day before."

The rodeo will still have its traditional dates on the third weekend in July — two weeks after the inaugural Cornstalk Music Jam — and Schmidt said in many ways, this event will be setup like the rodeo is. There will be general admission seating surrounding the rodeo arena, and then a designated number of standing room tickets will be sold inside the arena on the rodeo dirt. Schmidt said the plan is to roll the rodeo dirt and tightly compact it to make it easier for audience members to stand and watch the show.

As for the makeup of the show, Schmidt said he wanted a mix of old-school and new-school country acts. A local warm-up opening act is also planned but still being sought, he said.

"The old rock bands are fairly expensive, but you can get quality country music at a good price point," Schmidt said. "We tried to fix on our target market and I think we got three really good artists."

If it's successful, Schmidt said, he would like to explore expanding the event to multiple days to a festival format or to allow people to camp on the grounds. He said he's hoping the shows can get a good response this year.

"We hope that it goes well, but it mandates that people come out and support the show," Schmidt said.

Schmidt said he's working with city public safety officials to limit potential drunk-driving following the show. He said they're planning a designated driver hospitality area, potentially having a Palace Transit route from the show site back to the city, and he wants to work with the city's cab companies to help get people home from the show.

"We really want to limit drinking and driving back into town," Schmidt said. "That's a primary focus and we think that can be beneficial to everyone involved."

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