|“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.