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Playing in the plaza

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Children run across the grass in the recently completed Corn Palace plaza Saturday during the daylong dedication event. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)2 / 5
Corn Palace Director Scott Schmidt talks to crowds gathered Saturday night at the Corn Palace plaza dedication ceremony. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)3 / 5
Children, dressed in patriotic clothing, pose for a quick photo before the Sweat for Vets 5K Saturday morning in front of the Corn Palace (Sara Bertsch / Republic)4 / 5
People gather in the recently completed Corn Palace plaza Saturday night before the dedication ceremony at the Corn Palace. (Sara Bertsch / Republic)5 / 5

With a wide open, grassy space, children raced through the Corn Palace plaza.

People threw bean bags in another part of the plaza while others enjoyed greasy food from several vendors nearby.

But nowhere was there a frowning face during the grand opening ceremony of the Corn Palace plaza on Saturday night, following a full day of activities for the Corn Palace plaza kick off and dedication day.

"It is really nice to see the kids out here playing on the grass, the bean bags game going on and a couple of them were out there throwing the football around," Mitchell Mayor Jerry Toomey said during the ceremony. "That's what this thing is all about, is for the community to come together with our visitors from out-of-state."

The day was packed with events, kicking off with boot camp fitness class in the morning, followed by a vendor and craft show, the Sweat for Vets 5K, a poker run, bean bag tournament, a Dakota Wesleyan University tailgate, a Mitchell High School benefit luncheon, a beer garden and live entertainment — all hosted in the recently completed plaza.

Officials broke ground on the Corn Palace plaza in May 2017, which also included infrastructure work, landscaping and new walkways on Sixth Avenue between Main and Lawler streets. The city budgeted $876,000 for the project in 2016 and 2017, according to city documents.

And with the completion of phase one of the plaza project, Corn Palace Director Scott Schmidt thanked the Mitchell City Council for making the new park — located directly south of the Palace — possible.

"The idea when we first thought of this Corn Palace plaza was to showcase the Corn Palace, showcase downtown and showcase this community," Schmidt said. "And with this event today and the finalization of this project, I think we achieved that."

The plaza is set to include additional features, such as shade structures, at a later date. But for now, this is exactly what Toomey hoped for, looking at the crowd gathered for the dedication ceremony.

"This is going to be one day of many, many, many days in the future to come," Toomey said. "And the fruition of this vision is finally coming to reality and the second phase of this, if it ever does come to a reality, is to extend the park even further south. Hopefully that will happen."