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Visitor numbers down so far this summer, but Corn Palace murals on track to be completed in September

Corn Palace director says mural installation is on track to begin mid-September.

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Charlie McCardle shows Noah Larson where to cut a bundle of straw used to decorate the Corn Palace on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Despite being a little behind schedule due to the icy conditions this spring, Corn Palace officials are excited for the new mural installations.

In May, the city announced the new theme for the 2023 corn-inspired murals at the Palace. Installation is set to begin mid-September, and will feature famous South Dakotans, including Laura Ingalls-Wilder, Joe Foss and Bob Barker.

“We have a strong crew – 16 decorators," said Jeff Hanson, maintenance supervisor and decoration coordinator, "and the theme is going to be really interesting this year.”

A crew is working toward replacing the sour dock this week and rye was delivered Tuesday afternoon after a small production delay.

“Other than that, we haven’t had any difficulties so far," Hanson said. "Just hoping for some good rain.”

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The 2023 Corn Palace mural mock-ups.
Provided by Doug Greenway.

The new murals were designed by Dakota Wesleyan University Media and Design students under the supervision of Kyle Herges.

Corn Palace Director Doug Greenway explained the new murals will have an interactive QR code that gives general information about each celebrity. He hopes that this, combined with the static exhibits, will provide a fun and educational experience for those who visit.

Greenway said that tourism staff will be able to answer questions that out-of-state visitors have about the murals during their summer tours as well.

The Corn Palace will be decorated with some of South Dakota's most famous faces.

Visitor numbers are currently down about 20-30% compared to 2021, according to Greenway, who added that “2021 was a record tourism year, and we’re more in-line with numbers from 2019-2020.”

Despite a decline, the Corn Palace is still a fan-favorite tourist attraction in the Midwest. Among at least 34 other corn palaces built throughout the Midwest from around 1887 to 1930, Mitchell’s Corn Palace is the only one that remains completely intact and mostly original.

Local artists have designed the murals since the 1940s, including names such as Oscar Howe, Calvin Shultz and Cherie Ramsdell, who then passed the torch to DWU students in 2018.

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Raf Luna nails bundles of straw onto the Corn Palace on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

The idea behind the Palace was to showcase the incredible agriculture in the area and create a community in doing so. For over 130 years, it has continued to do exactly that. Festivals, carnivals, athletic events, farmers markets, food truck festivals and many more community events are hosted by the site, including the annual Corn Palace Festival.

The Corn Palace Festival will take place Aug. 24-28. The attraction is free to the public. However, concert tickets and ride vouchers are available now.

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“About a thousand concert tickets have already been sold,” Greenway said.

Cassie Williams joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2022. To get in contact with Cassie about potential stories or ideas, feel free to email her at cwilliams@mitchellrepublic.com.
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