SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A quirky eastern South Dakota landmark dedicated to all things corn is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation, including new lit domes resembling ears of corn, in an effort to draw in more maize-curious visitors.
The Corn Palace bills itself as the world's only palace dedicated to the grain plant. New murals using about 275,000 ears of corn of various sizes and colors decorate the exterior and interior of the sprawling building each year in the small town of Mitchell. About 200,000 tourists visit the attraction annually.
Originally established in 1892 for settlers to display the fruits of their harvest, the Corn Palace has undergone several changes over the years and is now used for a variety of local activities, including graduations, proms and basketball games. But local officials are looking for something more exciting.
The Mitchell City Council approved a $7.2 million upgrade Monday to the attraction and the adjacent soon-to-be vacated City Hall building, including new domes that will look like an ear of corn with the silks of the corn coming off, said Corn Palace director Mark Schilling.
A balcony, larger murals and a widened lobby are also planned, along with upgrades to the building's heating and cooling systems.
"The Corn Palace is the pride and joy of Mitchell, so we want to make sure our icon is kept fresh and looking good," Schilling said.
The renovations will also help honor the attraction's roots, Schilling added, noting that photos of the original Corn Palace in 1892 show larger murals and different types of domes.
The murals are created with corn of various colors, including blue, orange and black, and are changed annually based on a different theme. They've portrayed such things as Mount Rushmore and cowboys riding horses.