Sunday, June 12, 2011

One Last Pass Through the City of Mitchell, South Dakota

"A ONE AND A TWO..."  LAWRENCE WELK.  A CORN PALACE ICON BORN AND RAISED
IN THE GERMAN-SPEAKING TOWN OF STRASBURG, NORTH DAKOTA. 

Jerry and I drove today to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for a family get together on Sunday.  It's about a 4-hour drive from Pierre and on the way — about 3 hours into the trip — we passed through the city of Mitchell, South Dakota.  It seemed only appropriate that we stop in Mitchell, my namesake, one last time before our move to Spain.

THIS YEAR'S THEME.  OVER THE TOP WITH PATRIOTISM, CONSERVATISM, AND CHRISTIANITY.

Mitchell, South Dakota, is the home of the Mitchell Corn Palace.  It is proudly billed as the "world's only corn palace" and hosts stage shows and sporting events in its arena.  The original Corn Palace, called "The Corn Belt Exposition" was established in 1892. Early settlers displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building's exterior in order to prove the fertility of South Dakota soil. The current building was completed in 1921.

TWO OF THE SIDE "MOSAICS."
WHAT'S MORE AMERICAN THAN APPLE PIE AND UNCLE SAM?

The Corn Palace is a classic example of American kitsch.  But the detail and workmanship is very impressive since all the mosaics are created using corn and grains.  The latest art is still in progress.

THE STREETS OF MITCHELL  COWBOYS, GAMBLING HALLS, SALOONS, AND MORE.

In the past, I've enjoyed the artwork on the Corn Palace.  But this time, I was a bit put off by the two separate panels depicting Christians (and only Christians) — the cross prominently displayed — preparing to worship with their families; and the ultra-patriotic (which I should expect and be used to, I suppose) panels depicting conservatism and American chauvinism... subjects that make me extremely uncomfortable.

ON THE WAY OUT OF TOWN.  AN ENORMOUS FIBERGLASS COW. 
MAKES YOU WANT TO RUN TO CHEF LOUIE'S FOR A STEAK, DOESN'T IT?

But, back to the kitsch!  The Mitchell Corn Palace was a big deal when Jerry was growing up.  He remembers going there with his entire family — his grandparents, parents, and sisters — in the early 1960s to see Lawrence Welk and his orchestra perform.  For my New York City family, The Lawrence Welk Show, was entertaining, but primarily as comic relief (my sister and I would imitate the singers and dancers), although he did admittedly retain very talented musicians.  For Jerry's South Dakota family, Lawrence Welk and his "champagne music" were high art.  So, the idea that they were able to see Lawrence Welk perform live at the Corn Palace was very exciting.  Even more exciting for Jerry was the day during his junior high school years when Myron Floren, Lawrence Welk's accordion player, came to Jerry's church choir rehersal to perform.  So, as a little bonus, I thought I'd end with a video of Lawrence Welk with Myron Floren playing the Dakota Polka.

8 comments:

  1. Hello Mitch:
    What an extraordinary place the Corn Palace appears to be. We certainly have never seen anything comparable.

    In our view it is always a very fine line separating patriotism from nationalism, and one which is not always clearly defined. A successful society, in our view, is one which is totally inclusive of all people.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks more like a bull than a cow... but still.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Mitch - You really should warn readers about posting scenes like the corn palace so early on a Sunday morning! Fully agree with your sentiments regarding patriotism, chauvinism and religion - an aspect of life in America we never quite got our heads around (and we lived on the west coast so it wasn't as bad).

    ReplyDelete
  4. At first I only saw the spires of the 'Palace' and thought you skipped several states to play at Trump's Casino in Atlantic City.

    Enjoy your weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  5. J&L: Agreed. And, sadly, we here are not very successful. I found that stop yesterday depressing. But, will focus on the family gathering today and a drive to the wonderful city of Minneapolis tomorrow!

    Walt the Fourth: Cow, bull... I can never tell them apart unless I see the ring in the nose. (That's how you tell the bull, isn't it?)

    Craig: Be warned. Al's Oasis, Chamberlain, South Dakota, is still to come by the weekend.

    Tippin: I love it. We may actually get to Atlantic City before we cross the ocean (if I decide to let Jerry loose again). But, I make it a point to not patronize any establishment with the name Trump.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Mitch,
    thanks for the tour of one of the Midwest finest. Travel Safe.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey Mitch, good to see you kept an 'open mind' through this place. I do remember Lawrence Welk and sometimes even enjoyed his shows.
    What a great 'gift' for Jerry.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Scott: Finest, huh? LOL. But, yes, there is only one Corn Palace. And thanks. Sioux Falls today. Minneapolis tomorrow.

    Jim: Did I come across as keeping an open mind? Good. I wasn't feeling very open while there. As for the Lawrence Welk Show, OK, I did like the "lovely" Lennon Sisters... and Barbara and Bobby (remember Bobby from the original Mickey Mouse Club). And it sure was wonderful seeing Jerry smile as he shared his memories last night.

    ReplyDelete

It's always great to hear from you...