The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Monday, August 24, 2015

And Now for a Corny Blog Post


Arlee Bird cornsorting with the corny mascot of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

      Blogger friends!   Lend me your ears!   Sometimes I realize I resort to corn on Tossing It Out, but in this post I've got the real thing.  There's more than just a kernel of truth to this post--there's a whole bunch of kernels.  

        In our recent trip across country from New Jersey back to Los Angeles, my wife and I traversed a number of the agricultural states of America's Heartland and were impressed by the farmland we passed on our journey.  It was mostly corn fields, but also many other crops that I, being no agriculturist, could not identify.  I'm guessing we might have seen a lot of soy, peas, and other plantings.  Then there were the vast fields of sunflowers in South Dakota that kept Tina Downey on my mind.  If you'll remember, A to Z Team member Tina Downey passed away a year ago on August 23rd and we sorely miss her.  Seeing those sunflowers was kind like a tribute in her memory.

Mitchell, South Dakota

The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota

      If there are any among you who have heard of Mitchell, South Dakota then you are surely familiar with a true oddity of America Heartland legend--"The World's Only Corn Palace".   This was one place that we had to stop for as it is a unique landmark.

       The Corn Palace is the centerpiece of the city's yearly Corn Palace Festival as well as being the locale of many other festivities throughout the year.  The building has a basketball court that is used for local college and high school games and a stage that has featured many name acts in its long history.  


During the peak tourist season the main Corn Palace floor becomes a veritable souvenir department store.  That black rectangle in the background is the vast stage.
       
      In fact yours truly played the Corn Palace a number of times in the 70's and 80's when I was touring with the World of Fantasy Players so I was well familiar with this venue which was another reason I wanted to revisit this world renown facility.   They've made a lot of improvements since I was there last.   The place looked fine and was bustling with tourists on the Thursday afternoon when we visited.

       The most unique feature of the Corn Palace and what gives it its name is that the mural mosaics on the exterior and interior are made up entirely of ears of colored corn and other parts of the corn plants.  Each year the old murals are stripped and replaced with new ones.  This is a pretty amazing feat that takes weeks of tedious work to complete.

      This year's Corn Palace Festival begins this coming Thursday August 26th running through Sunday August 30th.   Some of the featured acts this year are Tony Orlando and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  You can still make it if you are so inclined, but I'm not sure about motel availability as the event draws thousands each year.

      Durn it all!   I just missed it!  Shucks!


My wife couldn't resist the shopping at the souvenir booths on the Corn Palace basketball court. 


A blog giant posing with a giant of peas.  Can you guess who is who?


        Earlier in the day prior to reaching Mitchell, South Dakota we made a quick stop off at Blue Earth, Minnesota.   I was actually getting off the interstate to find a place where my wife could buy some Minnesota souvenirs and we happened upon this tribute to the Jolly Green Giant.  Blue Earth is home to a Green Giant museum as the city played a vital role in the company's history.  Each year in July Blue Earth holds a Giant Days Festival.  By the way Blue Earth also claims to being the place of origin of the ice cream sandwich--that's what they say at least.

         And now for you Green Giant fans--remember this?


.

          I'd forgotten all about this crazy song from the group that gave us that most notorious version of the song "Louie, Louie" and then even before I got to Blue Earth, Minnesota I heard this song played on the radio.  Some kind premonition maybe?   Oh, peas...

           Have you visited either of these nutty Roadside Attractions?   Do you have any unique festivals in or near the community where you live?   What is the oddest place you've ever visited?
            

68 comments:

  1. Hi, Lee! Thanks for showing us some of your interesting vegetarian destinations, good buddy. I never heard of The Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. It's an incredible structure and I can imagine all the work it takes to strip the walls and replace the colored cobs. I enjoyed your corn puns. (They go nicely with the fruit puns on my latest post.) Here are a few more to add to the collection:

    * The Corn Palace looks like a maize.
    * Meet any kernels in the crowd?
    * If you go there a lot are you labeled a stalker?

    As you might expect I remember the Kingsmen and their hit record "The Jolly Green Giant." It was a great idea for you to pose for a picture in front of the big guy. I wonder if anybody else has ever thought to do that. :)

    Have a great day and week, Lee!

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    1. Shady, I sure I'm the first to have ever posed in front of the Green Giant. Actually according to one source I read, the iconic giant gets about 10,000 visitors per year. I'd say there have been some pretty creative photos taken there.

      Lee

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  2. That's wild you played at the Corn Palace years ago. Some really odd side attractions in America.

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    1. Alex, our agents used to book us in some unique and strange places. Every day was an adventure.

      Lee

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  3. There are a lot of cool attractions in SD. I wish we could've veered off and stopped at all of them back in 2011. We did stop at Wall Drug though and that was awesome. I love roadside attractions, there's a lot of great kitsch out there!

    I've been thinking a lot about Tina this past week. I'm so sad she's gone. Our last interactions were when she commented on my wedding photos how happy she was for us that she was crying.

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    1. JoJo, Wall Drug is a glitzy unique piece of Americana. We actually stayed in Wall since it was close to Mount Rushmore and cheaper than most of the places I found available in Rapid City. A lot of people traveling this summer!

      Seeing all those sunflowers I couldn't help but think of Tina.

      Lee

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  4. This is one I've never heard of - and it's so cool that you played there. Love hearing about your travels.

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    1. Karen, if you're ever in that area you must check out the Corn Palace it has a great history and so many great artists have performed there. They have a gallery that includes many photos of those who performed at the Corn Palace.

      Lee

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  5. Yes, quite something that you played the corn palace at one time. One forgets you used to be a juggler and entertainer. Sounds like quite a trip you are having.

    Seem to have been a lot of reminders about Tina at the moment. I keep seeing sunflowers which I don't remember before. Maybe because they mean more to me now.

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    1. Jo, I don't think I'll ever see a sunflower again without Tina coming into my mind.

      Lee

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  6. I have been to the Corn Palace and it is one...A-MAIZE-ING
    place.

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    1. Naila, it's a must see for anyone passing by Mitchell. They shouldn't let the oddness or corniness prevent them from check it out. It's history and not just some dumb tourist trap.

      Lee

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  7. YOU are corny. :) Your summer sounds like bunches of fun. I would put Corny Mascot in my yard. I like him/her.

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    1. Teresa, my wife and I both just had to have our picture taken with the Corn Mascot. Such fun.

      Lee

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  8. I've never visited those roadside attractions but I'm corny so I would. :D

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    1. Chrys, don't miss it if you're ever in the area. And every American should go see Mt Rushmore which is not too far from Mitchell.

      Lee

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  9. My parents visited the Corn Palace but I've never been. A community not far from us has goat races when they celebrate their town's birthday. There are a lot of odd celebrations across the country.
    Susan Says

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    1. Susan GK, you need to see the Corn Palace on day along with Wall Drug and Mt Rushmore. There all rather close together and it would make for a fun vacation. You can easily spend a week or two in the Black Hills area there is so much to see. A vacation trip checking out odd celebrations would probably be a real hoot and provide a lot of writerly inspiration.

      Lee

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  10. Tina most definitely a Sunflower. Strong and bright.

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    1. Shelly, but even a sunflower must one day wilt and die though the wonder is they leave thousands of seeds behind.

      Lee

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  11. A town in Ohio that my husbands parents used to live in had a Hoppy Days festival. It was dedicated to Hopalong Cassidy and I loved it. They had a guy who looked just like William Boyd who would come in full dress every year.

    Back in 1972 we came to America to visit my Aunt who had emigrated in the late 60's and she lived in Stamford CT. Well, my dad decided we should see all of America so we started in LA and drove cross the States. He wanted to do the Route 66 thing. I know I saw the biggest ball of string and some other crazy things. But what stuck in my head were those motels that were made like tee pees. To me it was just like on tv and I was fascinated by it. However, we couldn't get him to book a room in one of them. Things were getting pretty shabby by then and I've no idea if it's been brought back to life since then. But as a little girl, it was a cool thing.

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    1. Anne, Hoppy was all the rage when I was a kid and I was a big fan as well. Though we lived in Ohio at the time I can't recall hearing about that festival.

      My family did the RT 66 thing coming to San Diego in 1959 and returning back east in 1963. It was a great route with so much to see. I remember those teepee motels. I'm pretty sure there is at least one still in operation though from what I've read they're not the best place to stay. I'm sure kids might not mind it. It's probably a step above camping.

      Lee

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    2. The only thing I remember about that whole trip was RT 66. When we had to get onto the highways to finish the journey it all looked the same to me.

      When The Hubby and I have to travel now we always go US 40 so I can see all the small towns. Everything looks the same now in cities all over the world, it's the small towns that have the character and individuality to them.

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    3. When I was I kid I thought there was a lot of sameness along the roads of America, but after I began my life on the road I began to appreciate the nuances. It's all pretty cool in my view--even the same looking stuff.

      Lee

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  12. Arlee, are you and Shady related? I too thought your corn puns went well with the fruit puns on his recent blog post.
    Interesting places you've visited. As for odd festivals, we have lots of great music festivals every year here in MIlwaukee, Every weekend almost there is a new one. They are ethnic festivals, so one weekend it's Germanfest, another is Irishfest, we also have Polishfest and a few more. Maybe not as unique as the corn palace. But every Autumn we also have autumn fest and one place has chocolate fest. That's a bit more unique, and I keep telling myself I need to visit but I never do.

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    1. Jeffrey, not related as far as I know, but just a couple of odd bloggers.

      Los Angeles region also has numerous odd and not so odd festivals. In Gilroy they have the Garlic Festival. I'm not sure I'm up to trying the garlic ice cream.

      Lobsterfest in Long Beach is being advertised now but I think it would end up being too expensive and probably too crowded for my taste.

      Lee

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  13. I've never been to either of those places, but it looks interesting. Maybe one day my travels will take me that way and I can visit.

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    1. Patricia, hope you can make it. The northern states are vast and wide open with much to offer.

      Lee

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  14. Well, now my "living vicariously-through -blog-friends" adventures are finally complete...

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    1. CW, Ah, but there is so much more to see and experience my friend. And you must go for yourself one day.

      Lee

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  15. My uncle went through the corn palace once. That's the only reason I've heard of it. He had oodles of pictures.

    Have you ever been to the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach? It's one of those art shows that they do down there every summer. I didn't get a chance to go this year, but I do love it when I do.

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    1. Liz, I am aware of the Sawdust Festival, but I've never gone. Oddly, we don't do much close to home and rarely go anywhere unless we're showing company around.

      Lee

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  16. HA! We haven't ever "stayed" but we did stop there and check it out and get our pictures with Corny when we drove cross country two years ago. It's a funny place.

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    1. Hart, you mean "funny like a clown"? It is indeed funny in the sense of being an oddity. The corn mural is fascinating to study up close and the history portrayed in the exhibits inside is rather interesting.

      Lee

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  17. Love the corn:) You have an ear for this type of stuff:) I love these odd things and attractions. I have seen a big apple, the smallest church (In Niagara on the Lake) and the huge Uniroyal tire in Detroit (on the way to Ann Arbor).

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    1. Birgit, the biggest, the smallest, the weirdest--I can't get enough of this stuff. I only wish I had more time to partake of it all.

      Lee

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  18. Love the photos! The Corn Palace is so unique. I enlarged it to see the detailing better. Those "corny" murals must have taken hundreds of hours to complete. How cool that you were on stage there, Lee. I've never been further west in the northern part of the U.S. than Chicago. Something to plan for the future. It looks like you had a great vacation. Thanks for sharing it with us. ☺

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    1. Debbie D, you really must explore the western U.S. The Black Hills, Yellowstone, Glacier, and so much more. We had a great vacation.

      Lee

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  19. I haven't visited those places, Lee, but I do know there are wonderful festivals for almost anything you can imagine across this beautiful country. There's a corn festival here in Northern Colorado, and I remember seeing signs for a garlic festival somewhere in southern California. Apple cider and apple butter in Brown County, Indiana. And then there are those Rocky Mountain Oyster festivals held in several places across the West.

    I guess the oddest place I ever visited was not a man-made attraction but a natural one: Devil's Tower in NE Wyoming. It's incredible.

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    1. Patricia, I had Devil's Tower scheduled in our route but decided against going because time got too short. We were very close to it though. I've been there before and it's quite spectacular.

      Lee

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  20. What a neat experience to revisit the Corn Palace! I bet you were reminiscing like crazy. That's really cool that they do those murals every year using corn parts. I love quirky festivals. Probably the quirkiest festival we had here in Austin was the annual Spamarama: it's an entire festival and competitive cookoff celebrating that beloved (or hated) canned meat Spam. The participants compete in making creative recipes using Spam...and boy, were some of them creative! They had activities like the Spam Toss: Can you imagine trying to hold onto a gelatinous glob of spam and toss it the farthest? In all it was just a reason for Austinites to gather and have fun. Sadly the festival is no more. It ran from 1976 - 2007. It was a good 30 years! Austin's old hippies came up with tremendous festivals. One that is still going on is Eyore's Birthday Party (celebrating the Winnie the Pooh character).
    Thanks for sharing your "corny" trip tidbit!
    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Michele, I was disappointed that the Spam Museum in Austin, MN was closed for remodeling when we passed through, but it will re-open in 2016. Hope I can go back one day. I'm a Spam fan. I wonder if the Austin, TX Spam Festival had anything to do with the correlation of Spam and Austin, MN?

      Lee

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    2. I don't know Lee. That's interesting. There is a Wikipedia entry on Spamarama but it doesn't go into the history of the event. No mention of the Spam Museum.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spamarama
      It only lists a few tidbits, like some of the recipes made (ie: Moo Goo Gai Spam; GuacaSpamole). Cracks me up!

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    3. I'm willing to try just about anything once, but my favorites are the slice of spam baked in the oven with American cheese melted on top just like my mother used to fix sometimes for dinner or the slice fried in the pan with eggs. I'm a Spam purist I guess.

      Lee

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  21. I've seen many photos of The Corn Palace, but I've never been there. I like The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, but not enough to hop in the car and try to make it to The Corn Palace in time to see them. I saw a couple of rather large Paul Bunyan statues in Minnesota. They weren't very odd. In fact, we kids enjoyed them.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Janie, I remember reading a story once about a company that made those giant Paul Bunyans. The giant figures can be found all over the country holding various items like mufflers or whatever the business using them is selling.

      Lee

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  22. Scenic views aside, taking in the oddities is always a great way to get to know the folks who call these places home. Your pictures depict an awesome vacation! I've never been further than McCall, Idaho but you've made me think I might like to :-)

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    1. Diedre, you should if you're able to do it. So much to see in our great country, but it does take time and money. I'd like to spend at least a month in Idaho.

      Lee

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  23. Happy to see you two had a great time. I had the opportunity to travel in 2008 from Monterey, California all the way to the East Coast for 6 weeks. It was beautiful and I was amazed at what I learned.
    Shalom,
    Patricia

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    1. Pat, traveling is one of the best educations a person can get. But you do have to stop to see some sights and learn some history.

      Lee

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  24. LEE, it started to seem like you hadn't posted in awhile, so I got curious and checked. Turns out, somehow your blog had disappeared from those I "Follow". What the--- ?

    Actually, this seems to happen to me every so often. I think it's the first time it picked on YOUR blog though.

    I haven't visited either of those places. And I think the oddest place I've ever been is... Reno. Doh!

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

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    1. STMcC, I see my current post listed on your sidebar, but I don't know about the "Follow" listings as I don't rely on those at all.

      You mean Reno is odder than Phoenix? Or is "odd" somewhat positive? I've never been to Reno--hmm, sounds like a title for a song.

      Lee

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    2. Yeah, I've fixed it now. But I had to copy and paste your URL back into my Dashboard.

      Reno is WAY odder (weirder, stranger) than Phoenix. And, no, not in a good (Venice Beach) kind of way. Sorry I moved here.

      I've got a 2-part blog bit in the works about Reno, but I can never seem to finish it.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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    3. Maybe things will get better and you can give the story a good ending. Maybe you should move back to L.A. Thanks to our genius governor eggs are now $4 a dozen and we will soon be carrying buckets of water to our homes from a community well.

      Lee

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    4. Nah, I wouldn't move back to L.A., even if I could afford it.

      That was a great place to grow up in the 1960s and '70s, but by the mid-1980s, the party was over and anger was everywhere. It's no longer the place where I was raised.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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    5. Yeah, I agree. Once my wife retires I'm hoping we can get the hell out of here. I just hope it's not too late by then.

      Lee

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  25. Ha! Those look like some tasty and healthy destinations! I've always loved corn, especially sweet corn, though I never thought there'd be a palace for it!

    I think the only interesting places I remember going would be the Teton Mystery in Jackson, Wyoming. But that was a long time ago. :)

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    1. Loni, oooh! Teton Mystery! Love the sound of those kinds of places though sometimes they can be rather hokey. We had planned on including Jackson, Wyoming in our trip, but we decided to take in more of Yellowstone instead.

      Lee

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  26. I haven't been to any of these attractions, but sounds like you had a blast. We have the Sugarcane Festival in my hometown (and Crawfish Festival nearby) and here in Charleston, there's too many to name!

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    1. Quanie, a Sugarcane or Crawfish Festival either one sounds very enticing. I'd go to those!

      Lee

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  27. How much does the pirate charge for corn?











    A buccaneer!

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    1. I had to think for a minute. It's a joke I've heard before and can never remember the punchline.

      Lee

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  28. Actually, we just passed by the Corn Palace a week ago and will pass by again next week going the opposite way. I visited once back in 1974 and that was enough... don't feel the need to go again.

    But: have you ever read the excellent novel "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman? The Corn Palace and other roadside attractions are featured in the book in a very interesting way. To quote a blogger on the book that summed it up pretty well: "One of the concepts in Gaiman's book is gods need to be in spiritual, powerful, mystical places, and the churches and synagogues all across the country aren't good enough. Gods need places that people are inexplicably drawn to, places that people are compelled to visit for no other than reason than that they are there. Gods need... roadside attractions." And when such a place is created, a "god" is created. Very interesting book by one of my three favorite authors.

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    1. I guess the place has special memories for me, but they were drawing crowds from the looks of things.

      Never read any Gaiman. Sounds interesting. I think a lot of roadside attractions are very special.

      Lee

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  29. The Corn Palace! NG had highlighted it back in the 90s, but I did not know that it was stripped down and new murals were created.
    We stopped at Road Kill Cafe on Rte. 66, in Skeilig, Nevada--fun place. Highly recommended.

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    1. Susan K, I've heard of the Road Kill Cafe. The name isn't very appetizing, but I guess it's part of the initial draw.

      Lee

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  30. From the outside, the Corn Palace reminds me of one of those old movie palaces from the Twenties, Thirties, and Forties. That's some really nice architecture and design.

    Off the top of my head, I think one of the most memorable novelty places I've visited is the giant milk bottle in Boston. It's just what it sounds like, a giant milk bottle-shaped structure where they sell ice-cream and snacks. It's located along the Museum Wharf, near Boston Harbor.

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    1. Carrie-Anne, the Corn Palace definitely has a retro feel to it. I've seen pictures of that milk bottle structure. There have been a number of books and TV shows about places like these all across the U.S.

      Lee

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