Curious attractions: Wall Drug and Mitchell Corn Palace

Friday 7 to Saturday 8 August

Wall Drug is another crazy USA experience.

In 1931 a religious man, Ted Hustead purchased a pharmacy in the town of Wall, South Dakota. With only 231 residents, business was slow and they were ready to give up.  Their fortunes were changed when his wife Dorothy had a brainwave to place advertisements along the highway offering free ice to thirsty tourists, travelling to the newly opened Mount Rushmore, which is 60 miles further on.

Whether it was their belief in their religion or a simple marketing idea that saved the Husteads, the Wall Drug store has now expanded to house dozens of small boutiques, a chapel and a western art museum.

Along the I90 freeway and other roads leading to Wall, self-promotion bill-boards still advertise the store. Some of the signs I captured are:

  • Dig It! | Wall Drug
  • South Dakota | Wall Drug | Coffee 5c | South Dakota must see!
  • Refreshing! | -Free- Ice Water | Wall Drug
  • Experience Wall Drug | Mining Co | Mining – Panning – Digging
  • An American Icon | Wall Drug
  • Experience | ********* | Wall Drug

You can even take a sign home with you, from the store, which will proclaim the mileage to Wall Drug.

Wall Drug was a busy place during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, just another of the many spots that tourists like to visit.

And they still sell coffee for 5c and they still give away free water and ice.

Not to be outdone with the curious tourist attraction at Wall, a little further east on the I90 is the town on Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the famous Corn Palace.

The first corn palace was built in 1892 as part of the fall festival, to showcase the rich agricultural land in the area and encourage settlers. Over the following years it was rebuilt, with the final version with a curious combination of Russian domes and Moorish minarets.

Other towns have built their own corn palaces, but none have survived like the one in Mitchell.

Each year the internal and external walls of the corn palace are redecorated with a new theme.  The decoration consists of different coloured cobs of corn and are quite clever.

As well as the half million visitors who drop by Mitchell each year to see the Corn Palace, the birds have a wonderful time picking off the corn.