Posts Tagged ‘Corn Palace’

Yes, it’s time once again for the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota at the end of day one of my trip from Illinois to Wyoming. After about 8 hours of driving, I was ready to stop and relax, so after checking in to the motel, I drove to the Corn Palace to see what this year’s theme was. All the pictures are made using corn, other grains, and grasses. I also stopped by the small framer’s market in the open area next door.

This year’s theme is a salute to the military.


To paraphrase a famous quote from The Wind and the Willows:

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply taking a road trip. 

Even though the weather was abysmal, as you can see from this one-handed phone photo, my spirits were high as I took to the road towards my first night’s stop in South Dakota.  Illinois had its usual wonderful combination of lots of traffic and toll roads with the rain and construction thrown in just for spice.  I whiled the miles away listening to a book on CD and wishing I could use cruise control.

© janet m. webb

I make two stops during the ten hour drive.  The first is always a combination cheese and fuel (and bathroom) stop in Mauston, Wisconsin where I stock up on cheese and a bag of fresh, squeaky cheese curds.  It amuses me each year that I buy cheese in a town whose first part of its name, Maus, means “mouse” in German, although the city’s website gives this as the origin of the name:

Mauston’s unique name originally was “Maughs Town,” named after its founder Milton Maugh.

© janet m. webb


From our house to Sheridan, Wyoming is about 1,151 miles, just over 16 hours. Once I get there, I have to drive out of town and up into the mountains another 45 minutes or so. But my destination for Day 1 is Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the world’s only Corn Palace.  Are you ready to ride?

I realized this year that I’ve been going to this place in Wyoming for over 40 summers. When we drove from Cleveland, it was an additional 6 1/2 hours, so this drive seems fairly short in addition to familiar. I love seeing the country change, from the farmlands and cities of Illinois, to the more forested Wisconsin, where I make my first stop in Mauston to stock up on cheese from Carr Valley Cheese.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention our other tradition, listening to the BBC radio production of “Lord of the Rings”, 12 hours or so of living in a different, magical place.  Not long after we got married, I found a set of cassette tapes at Half Price Books for $25, quite a lot to us in those days.  I agonized over whether or not to get it for my husband as a Christmas gift.  You know what I decided.  We’ve listened to it every year since, going to and from the cabin.  One year, our younger daughter and I listened to it once on the way out and once on the way back.  We’re now on the CD version and it’s still wonderful.

© janet m. webb


In the Midwest, “Knee high by the Fourth of July” indicates how farmers hope their corn is performing. Corn is a big part of the farming economy, a fact acknowledged by the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, my overnight stop on the trip from Naperville to Sheridan, Wyoming.  As soon as I checked in to my motel, I went to see the theme for this year.

1892 marked the first year of the Corn Palace’s existence. The current building is the third palace, but every year the current year’s theme is wrought in naturally colored corn and other grains as well as native grasses. Some of the early themes were amazingly elaborate, starting with the very first one in 1892.  Inside is an arena used for basketball, graduations, and all sorts of other events.  When a friend and I stopped some years ago, she thought it was going to be, pardon the pun, corny.  But she thoroughly enjoyed and admired it, as do half a million visitors a year.

This year, rock and roll is featured, “Rock of Ages”.  But first, stop by across the street to admire this guy.


Our first stop after leaving in the morning is the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.  Every year, the outside is decorated with corn, grasses and other plants.  Begun in 1892, the Corn Palace is somewhere you might think will be, if you’ll excuse the expression, corny, but as my best friend found out several years ago, it’s really interesting.


Hay’s an important crop, so hay and grass for grazing are much of what we see as we drive through South Dakota.  Earlier in the year, we would have seen sunflowers, but I only spot one field of them.  

Since it’s Bike Rally week in Sturgis, there are literally hundreds of bikers on the road.  Motels and hotels are filled as far as five or six hours away.  Bikers who look like they were young during the 60’s and older couples whose motorcycles sport sidecars all make the trek from all over the country.  It’s always the first week of August and some wild and crazy things go on.


Several summers ago, my friend and I were on our way to Wyoming for a week of vacation in the Big Horn Mountains.  The rest of my family wasn’t able to make it and my friend had, oh, miracle of miracles, been able to take off an entire week.  She’d never been on a road trip of that magnitude nor been to that part of the country, so I was trying to decide what she should see on the way out or the way back.

Usually we don’t stop except for necessities such as food, gas, and pit stops, because we can’t wait to get to Wyoming and we do all our sightseeing on the return trip.  But on our second day, I realized there were two places we needed to stop on the way out, leaving Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands for the trip home. (more…)