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Corn Palace director pleased with 2016 festival turnout

MITCHELL, S.D. - A few familiar faces proved popular at the 2016 Corn Palace Festival. The three returning acts at this year's festival attracted 126 more paid spectators per night than last year's event, with country performer Gary Allan leading...

Judd Hoos, a Black Hills-based rock band, performs a free concert to the public on the Freedom Stage as part of the 2016 Corn Palace Festival on Thursday evening on Main Street in Mitchell. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Judd Hoos, a Black Hills-based rock band, performs a free concert to the public on the Freedom Stage as part of the 2016 Corn Palace Festival on Thursday evening on Main Street in Mitchell. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Matt Gade / Republic
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MITCHELL, S.D. - A few familiar faces proved popular at the 2016 Corn Palace Festival.

The three returning acts at this year's festival attracted 126 more paid spectators per night than last year's event, with country performer Gary Allan leading the charge with 1,786 tickets sold.

According to Corn Palace Director Scott Schmidt, Styx, Allan and the Happy Together Tour were able to attract a total of 4,991 concert-goers, or an average of about 1,663 per night. Last year, when four paid concerts were held, the Corn Palace saw an average of 1,537 people walk through its doors nightly.

Schmidt suspects the variety of musical styles and familiarity of the performers boosted ticket sales at this year's festival.

"I think it helped," Schmidt said Monday. "They're three really big names, and I think we had a good enough variety to hit different markets from Mitchell and the surrounding areas."

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Each of the three performers this year played a previous Corn Palace Festival, with Styx appearing in 2005, Allan in 2010 and the Happy Together Tour in 2013. And while Allan's Saturday night performance was most popular, generating $90,130 in gross revenue - before accounting for expenses - both Styx and Happy Together were able to attract more music fans than three of the four shows in 2015.

According to Schmidt, Styx brought in 1,580 paid spectators and $71,350 in gross revenue, while Happy Together drew 1,625 attendees and $64,160.

Schmidt said the net profits will likely be determined within the week, but he suspects the totals to be positive. According to previous reports by The Daily Republic, last year's four concerts combined to earn the city $2,731.

The Corn Palace Events and Entertainment Board also decided to shake up this year's event schedule, shifting the Thursday show to a free concert following last year's paid performance by Jerrod Niemann that sold 1,016 tickets. And Schmidt said the free Judd Hoos show was a hit.

"It was a night for us to give back," Schmidt said. "And the vendors that came back year after year after year, whether it's a food or craft vendor, absolutely loved it."

There were several shows held on the "Freedom Stage" located on Sixth Avenue and Main Street, which Schmidt said allowed the Corn Palace to generate revenue from beer sales and brought larger crowds to the midway at night. With the larger crowds, Schmidt said vendors were able to remain open later and make more sales.

With outdoor shows of some variety from Thursday to Sunday, Schmidt said attendance was high, particularly for the Jones & Co. show on Saturday night.

"It gave them another excuse to come downtown and celebrate Corn Palace week, and it's something free that allows you to enjoy the night with friends, family or whoever you come down there with," Schmidt said.

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After what he saw as a successful first Corn Palace Festival since returning to Mitchell as Corn Palace director, Schmidt expects to bring similar acts to town in 2017.

"As of next year, we're looking at doing the three concerts again, and probably one outdoor concert," Schmidt said. "But that's got to be decided on by the Corn Palace Events and Entertainment Board."

As far as making any major changes for next year's festival, Schmidt said he's heard some people mention the possibility of moving the event back to its former September timeslot. But Schmidt said he hasn't heard any similar thoughts from the Corn Palace board.

And with nine events scheduled in the two weeks following the festival, including volleyball and basketball, Schmidt said the last week of August is working well.

"I think we kind of have our niche right now on the week that we're on," he said. "If it ever comes up, I think you have to be open to looking outside the box to see if something else would be more suitable for the Corn Palace Festival, but for my first one, I was happy with everything."

Related Topics: CORNMUSICSOUTH DAKOTAFOOD
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