Our 2009 Road Trip, Part 7: The New Cornographers

Mitchell Corn Palace!

Anne outside the Mitchell Corn Palace. Thankfully there was no danger of the walls popping at us.

The day before, we had visited the overlord of canned vegetables in Blue Earth, MN. 200 miles later, we found a place that concentrated on just one veggie in particular. Other foodstuffs didn’t play large parts, but they had one heck of a corn section.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Beginning with 2003’s excursion to Washington DC, we added my son to the roster and tried to accommodate his preferences and childhood accordingly.

2008 was by far our least favorite road trip to date, and still holds the ignominious title as of 2018. Our next vacation had to be better. Step one was plain enough: we looked at Anne’s brainstorming list of future road trips and chose the one that screamed “dream vacation”. That’s what led to our long, long drive out to the farthest reaches of South Dakota and beyond. At nine days it was the longest we’ve ever taken. The farthest point of 1,180 miles made it the longest drive of our lives. It would be the farthest west we’d ever been up to that time. It was also our first vacation using exclusively digital cameras to record the experience, leaving behind the 35mm film of our childhoods forever. They weren’t expensive cameras for their kind, certainly not the most advanced as of 2009, but we did what we could with the resources and the amateur skill sets available to us.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

DAY FOUR: Monday, June 15th.

A day full of mesmerizing sights began an hour west of our Sioux Falls hotel in the town of Mitchell, which missed a real tourism opportunity by never declaring any sort of affiliation with the MST3K episode of the same name. Clever sights dot the landscape to and from their big yellow centerpiece.

Welcome to Mitchell!

Their Chamber of Commerce welcomes any visitors. Frankly, they’re all ears.

Rock Totem?

Native art, or possibly a deformed philosopher’s stone.

Jackalope + Totem!

Totem pole standing next to the first jackalope we saw on this trip.

Chef Louie Bison!

The herald of the many South Dakota bison in our future.

Enchanted World!

The Enchanted World had gone out of business well before our arrival, up for sale to anyone with an enterprising spirit or a Medieval Times franchisee license.

For those who visit their local library or internets to read more about South Dakota, the Mitchell Corn Palace is one of the early search results, once you bypass the famous monuments and tribal reservations. The words “corn” and “palace” share next to nothing in common, but Mitchell wields the power of synergy to fuse the two simple yet incongruous concepts into a bizarre performance-art piece and creative small-town moneymaker. It’s a large building decorated with murals made entirely from corn. The corn is refreshed and replaced regularly; the mural designs change every year. It was free. We weren’t about to turn it down.

Corn Star!

Lots of hot corn pics viewable for free, including this shapely corn star.

Corn Palace!

Slightly better view of the towers from the side.

Taj Mahal!

Tourism featured in the 2009 exterior corn murals, represented by the likes of the Taj Mahal…

Corn DC!

…this amalgamated rendition of Washington, DC…

Corn Tourism!

…the Hoover Dam, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Alamo, the Golden Gate Bridge, and either the Badlands or the Black Hills.

How to Corn!

Inside, glass display cases exhibit the means and methods for creating corn art. Much effort and creativity are required; not just anyone can cobble this stuff together.

Inside the Corn Palace is a modest basketball arena used to house an extensive gift shop, which sold a combination of corn-themed knickknacks, souvenirs, and for some reason a variety of books. As I recall this was the first place I ever noticed copies of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series for sale. Above the sales floor hang retired corn murals from years past.

Corn Palace shop!

Once upon a time when I had MS Photo Stitch, I tried welding four photos into one to create my very own Corn Palace inner panorama…

Corn Palace shop!

…but with mixed results because I’m no graphic artist. I think the Palace and its ambiance come through well enough…

Corn Palace shop!

…without my amateurish use of well-meaning but wholly optional and somewhat flawed technology. I’m just not the guy to make his own corn films.


Another helpful traveler took this photo of us hanging out with Cornelius the local quadriplegic mascot and Veggie Tales understudy.

We appreciated the efforts that the people of Mitchell put forth to create such a unique place. We thought the diversion was worth it, and priced just right so we didn’t leave feeling like we’d been cornswoggled.

To be continued!

[Historical notes:

1. The husk of the Enchanted World was bought years later and, with minor modifications to its amazing exterior, reborn as a Christian-themed attraction called Valtiroty Shiloh’s Tabernacle, a Bible Park possibly like the one Ned Flanders opened that one time.

2. The original version of this photo gallery was strangely deficient in corn puns, which this remastered version has now overcorrected. Blame me, your host, Art Corney.]

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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