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Pam Engelland – Director of the Corn Palace Visitors Bureau

By Admin | October 19, 2007

Pam Engelland is the director of the Corn Palace Convention and Visitors Bureau in Mitchell, South Dakota. A lifelong resident of Mitchell, she tells us about the only building in America with a façade fashioned from corn.

What was the original impetus behind decorating a building with corn?

Eight years before the turn of the century – 1892 – when Mitchell, South Dakota was a small, 12 year old city of 3,000 inhabitants – the World’s Only Corn Palace was established on the city’s Main Street.

Some say the palace was conceived as a gathering place where city residents and their rural neighbors could enjoy a fall festival – a celebration to climax a crop-growing season and harvest, and a final fling before the long chill of winter set in.


Mitchell’s first corn Belt Exposition – later christened the Corn Palace Festival – was the brainchild of L.O. Gale and Louis E. Beckwith, who patterned it after a similar venture in Sioux City, Iowa which had failed to catch on there. Beckwith suggested it to Gale as an “answer” to a “grain palace” established at Plankinton, a rival community 22 miles to the west. 

As suggested by the name, the Corn Belt Exposition was, in addition to an occasion for extraordinary stage entertainment, a place for the display of products from the rich Dakota soil and competition was spirited each year for the honor and cash prizes offered farmers of the state.

 What type of events are held in the Corn Palace?

Approximately 150 basketball games are played each season in the Corn Palace. Dakota Wesleyan hosts their games in the Palace along with Mitchell’s senior high school whose team is called the “Mitchell Kernels” – of course.

Because of the uniqueness of our building, we are often referred to as the “Boston Garden of the Midwest. We were even featured in Sports Illustrated.

Residents and visitors enjoy big-name entertainment and indoor concerts in the World’s Only Corn Palace. Some past entertainers were Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

Also country music stars LeAnn Rimes and Willie Nelson. This year the entertainment was provided by Phil Vassar and Joe Nichols and the Oak Ridge Boys.

There has even been a wedding held in the building.

Who buys the corn for the building and who pays to have it put up?

A local farmer is contracted by the city of Mitchell each year to grow all of the corn, grasses and grains used on the Palace.

In the summer the inside of the Corn Palace turns into a large gift shop and the proceeds from those gifts are used to redecorate the Palace at an annual cost of over $130,000 each and every year.

How long does it take to tear off the old mural and build the new one?

Anywhere from three to six months

What time of the year are the new murals done?

The process begins in the early summer, around June, when the grains and grasses are removed from the building and replaced in new geometric designs.

In late summer, around August, when the corn matures, the mural pictures are replaced.

Who actually puts the corn on the building?

Approximately 20 local residents are hired each summer to redecorate the Palace.

How do you get the corn to adhere to the building façade?

3,000 bushels of milo, rye, oat heads and sour dock are tied into bundles and nailed to the building. About 275,000 ears of corn are sawed in half and nailed flat-side to the building.

With all that grain, does the building have a bug or rodent problem?

Not that I’m aware of. However, birds can be a problem. They love to eat the corn and that is why we are also known as the World’s Largest Birdfeeder!

Have you ever had a problem with someone vandalizing the murals


How many visitors a year come to see the Corn Palace?

Of course, we have visitors year round but we only count them during the summer months. Around 250,000 visitors visit the Corn Palace May through September.

How much money does the corn palace tourist trade put into Mitchell?

We estimate that about $18 million dollars are spent by visitors who visit the Corn Palace each summer.

What other attractionss are there in Mitchell?

The Model Car Museum, Harry’s Antique Safe Collection, the McGovern Legacy Museum, the Prehistoric Indian Village, The Dakota Discovery Museum, and the Enchanted Doll Museum and the very popular Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo.

Copyright 2007 DailyInterview.net 

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