Mitchell, South Dakota is a prairie town that is corn crazy and proud of it. Mitchell's high school sports teams are the Kernels. Its local radio station's call letters are KORN. And it is home to the "agricultural showplace of the world," the Mitchell Corn Palace.
In 1892, eight years before the turn of the 20th century 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. In the past 120 years it has become known worldwide and now attracts more than a half a million visitors annually. The palace was conceived as a gathering place where city residents and their rural neighbors could enjoy a fall festival with extraordinary stage entertainment – a celebration to climax a crop-growing season and harvest.
The original Mitchell Corn Palace (known as "The Corn Belt Exposition") was built to showcase the rich soil of South Dakota and encourage people to settle in the area. It was a wooden castle structure on Mitchell's Main Street. By 1905 the success of the Corn Palace had been assured and a new Palace was built but this building soon became too small. In 1919, the decision to rebuild the Corn Palace again was made and the present building was completed in 1921. Moorish onion domes and minarets were added in 1937 giving the Palace the distinctive appearance that it has today, as if it was drop-kicked out of czarist Russia. Today it lures tourists instead of farmers.
The Corn Palace serves the community as a venue for concerts, sports events, exhibits and other community events. Each year, the Corn Palace is celebrated with a citywide festival, the Corn Palace Festival. Other popular annual events include the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo in July and the Corn Palace Polka Festival in September. It is also used for industrial exhibits, dances, stage shows, meetings, banquets, proms, graduations arena for Mitchell High School and Dakota Wesleyan University as well as district, regional and state basketball tournaments. USA Today named the Corn Palace one of the top 10 places in America for high school basketball.
The Corn Palace also serves as an auditorium for touring celebrities (Lawrence Welk played there five times). In its first year of festivities money was raised to bring in John Phillip Sousa - probably the biggest name of that time.