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Corn-on-the-cob may be a barbeque staple for many Americans, but in Mitchell, South Dakota, the humble grain is elevated to a piece of art.

The Corn Palace, first built in 1892, is covered in more than 275,000 cobs of corn, many of which are arranged into murals depicting themes such as South Dakota history, sport and space exploration. Using 13 natural colours, ranging from orange to blue to green, the decorators hand-nail each cob to the palace wall to create the complex mosaics. The vegetable is specially grown for the murals, with each type planted in different fields to keep the colours pure and free from cross-breeding.

Each year, a local committee decides on a new theme for the palace’s murals, which are constructed between August and October. This year’s theme, “Remember When”, features scenes of American nostalgia, from drive-in movies to pioneer farm life.

More than 500,000 people visit the palace each year, especially later in the summer as the re-decoration begins. Within the palace itself, visitors can watch a video about its 121-year history and see photos of murals from years past. The venue also hosts events such as proms, basketball tournaments and the recently held Corn Palace Festival, featuring music, local vendors and amusement park rides.

Entrance to the palace is free, and guests can grab their own kernel to take home in the “corn-cessions” shop, which sells caramel corn cobs and corn necklaces made from the various shades used on the palace walls.  

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