Rain insurance, just in case, for the 1920s Corn Palace Festivals

Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic, Mitchell, S.D.
·3 min read

Apr. 9—EDITOR'S NOTE — This story is part of a series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the current Corn Palace building, which opened in 1921.

There is insurance for almost anything.

And in the 1920s, worried about the impact of weather on attendance and gate receipts at the Corn Palace Festival, organizers had insurance for rain.

"It will make some difference to the Corn Palace Committee whether or not it rains next week, but financially the committee refuses to worry," wrote the Mitchell Daily Republican ahead of the September 1923 show.

The policy called for being insured for $5,000, to be paid out for every day on which at least one-tenth of an inch of rain falls. For the week, if the entire week was rained out, the insurance payout could be as high as $30,000.

"This is thought to be a very liberal rain allowance because it is not believed that a tenth of an inch of precipitation would seriously affect either the roads or the crowds," the 1923 newspaper report said.

READ: More from the Corn Palace 100 series by Marcus Traxler.

The early shows were supported by local businesses and citizens who put forward the money to guarantee against any losses during the festival. For example, in 1922, $10,000 was pledged to cover the expenses of putting on the festival program. Some years, the festival would be a loss and the guarantee would have to be used, while in other years, the festival was in the black and the community's funding wasn't needed.

Of course, there is some irony in the insurance. The festival was a chance to show off the region's farming and agricultural prowess, and rain is encouraged to help grow corn while it's in the field. A 1922 headline boldly noted there was plenty of rain for the corn.

But once the show arrived, organizers didn't want too much rain to drive away attendees. Good weather meant that people could travel unpaved roads of the time, which would get ruts when the weather was bad.

Today, the Corn Palace Festival is less worried about rain because everyone has good roads to drive and can still get to Mitchell if there's inclement weather. For 2021, all of the shows are scheduled to take place in the Corn Palace, Director Doug Greenway said this week.

In 2020, when COVID-19 forced outdoor concerts at the festival, Greenway said the facility considered getting weather and rain insurance, but decided that if there was a rain delay, the crowd could wait it out inside the building and then start the show outdoors when the storm passed.

"We ended up going without the insurance and kind of rolled the dice," Greenway said. "We ended up not needing it but we had a plan if that happened."

If the Palace planned more outdoor shows, Greenway said the extra insurance would be more likely be purchased. He noted that the amusement provider has insurance on their rides, and the Palace has insurance for any incidents that might come up in the Corn Palace Plaza area.

"You look back at the 1920s and 1930s, that was a major expense to pay that kind of money to protect yourself against rain," Greenway said.

This story was published with the research assistance of the Carnegie Resource Center in Mitchell, located at 119 W. Third Ave.