Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mitchell, SD - Corn Palace and McGovern

We moved on from Pierre stopping for a couple of days in Mitchell. Once again our travel plans were dictated by the wind and being where we could watch the Penguins (out here there is no guarantee you will be able to get over the air stations).We are very happy the Pens have won the Stanley Cup and now we only need to worry about the wind. We had two things we wanted to see in Mitchell, the Corn Palace and The McGovern Center.
The original Corn Palace, dating back to the 1892, was built for the purpose of promoting South Dakota as having a good climate for agriculture. It was so successful that it soon outgrew its usefulness. The present Corn Palace, which was completed in 1921, is the third one. The street beside the building is being turned into a pedestrian plaza so the streets are a mess right now.  
Mitchell is all about corn, from the light posts, to the radio station KORN, to this corny mascot, and the sign on the door apologizing for the corn-struction.  
The building has a basketball court where about 150 games a year are played. During the summer the court is turned into a souvenir shop. The stage is used for performances during the Corn Festival and other times during the year. A little known fact, years ago my father sang on the stage.
The theme and the corn murals are changed every year. Local Yanktonai Nakota Sioux artist Oscar Howe did all the murals from 1948 to 1971. These are some of his most famous murals that have been restored and moved inside the palace. 
Oscar first sketched the murals and then did colored drawings. The sketches are then enlarged to the full size and made into what looks like a paint by numbers pattern then installed on to the wall. Then 12 different colors of corn that is grown in carefully separated plots so they don't cross pollinate are nailed in place.   
This mural above the stage shows the different lives of the Native Americans and the Early European Settlers. It was created by the local middle school art teacher. The two bottom murals show them working together. After it was up someone noticed that the handshake in the middle was backwards.  They determined the pattern was accidentally reversed when installed, making it appear that they are shaking with their left hands.  
The frames around the murals are bundles of ryegrass and sour dock, a hearty prairie plant. This is a close look at Willie Nelson as part of this year's theme Rock of Ages.
One reason they change the murals every year is they have the best fed birds in South Dakota. Many of the ears from last year have been picked clean and all of them have shrunk as they dry out.
Because of the corn-struction of the new plaza by the palace, the Rock of Ages theme will stay up for 2017. This gave us a good look at the process of corning the murals.  The black and white panel on the bottom is the enlarged pattern that the ears of corn will be nailed to. The workers are putting on the new trim of ryegrass on the frame of the top panel. The old cobs in the mural itself will be removed and new ones nailed in place.
All the murals are now created by local artist Cherie Ramsdell. Covering the entire building requires 275,000 ears of corn. We found the Corn Palace to be worthwhile and interesting and a convenient stop if you are traveling I-90 in South Dakota. And, the admission is free.
Also in Mitchell is The McGovern Center Museum and Library on the campus of  Dakota Wesleyan University. The center explores the lives of Eleanor and George McGovern, one of my early political leaders.
The center explores their early life growing up in South Dakota, attending Dakota Wesleyan and his service in WWII where he flew 35 missions as a B-24 pilot.
There are several exhibits about his life of public service in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, and various roles under Presidents Ford and Carter. He was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, in 2000 by President Clinton.  
Another exhibit deals with his failed run for president in 1972. This election started my interest in politics that continues to this day. The center is a great tribute to a man who dedicated his live to serving others with the goal of improving the lives of all people. 
Another worthwhile stop we found in Mitchell is the the Carnegie Resource Center which has an entire room dedicated to the Corn Palace and the many people who performed there over the years. The center's dome was painted by Oscar Howe, who designed the Corn Palace murals for many years. The painting Sun and Rain Clouds Over Hills goes back to his Yanktonai Nakota Sioux roots.
On the wall under the dome are several of his paintings. They combine his Native cultural roots and a modern style of art. 
These three places are all very neat and make a stop in Mitchell a must do. Since leaving there we have been to Sioux Falls where we saw my cousin Grace and are now in Omaha. Unfortunately, the repair of the slide did not work out at the facility where we had an appointment. We did get the part number so we are going to call another repair place down the road and have them order the part so it is available when we get there.


Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Good and corny post!

VisitMitchell! said...

Thanks for 'popping' by Mitchell, SD! Hope you had an A-maize-ing time ;)