The upcoming Adel Sweet Corn Festival means thousands of Iowans will come to town for a taste of summer in the form of corn on the cob.
About 7.5 tons or approximately 18,000 ears of corn will be consumed in the course of several hours during the annual festival, which this year falls on Aug. 10. This year’s slogan is “Keep Calm, the Corn is On” and will be printed on T-shirts and other Sweet Corn Festival souvenirs.
The Sweet Corn Festival started decades ago as a way for local merchants to thank the farmers and residents in the community by giving them free sweet corn.
An estimated 10,000 -12,000 people attend the Sweet Corn Festival each year, with attendance being closer to 12,000 the past two years, says Karina Ward, director of the Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce, the sponsor for the event. This is her first year overseeing the event.
“As a new member of the Adel community, I am excited to be a part of this wonderful festival,” she says. “The volunteers have been amazing to work with and truly speak to the quality of this annual event.”
The free sweet corn is served starting about 10 a.m. or as soon as the parade is finished. Organizers say if people want to make sure they get some corn, they have to come early and can’t wait until mid- to late afternoon.
About four years ago, event organizers bumped up the amount of sweet corn they purchase for the festival to 7.5 tons with the hopes of having enough corn to last from about 10 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. or later.
Adel’s Deardorff family continues to provide corn for annual festival
Ron Deardorff of Adel, owner of Deardorff’s Sweet Corn, has supplied the corn for the festival for about 20 years. Two of the 230 acres of sweet corn he plants goes toward the festival.
Despite the rainy and cool weather earlier this spring, Deardorff says there will be plenty of corn for the festival. He has 17 plantings of corn each year, so corn is available throughout the season for events such as the festival, farmers markets, roadside stands and the supplies he sends to area grocery stores.
The Deardorff family began supplying the corn for the festival in the mid-1980s. For several years, the Adel Chamber had gotten the corn for the festival from a canning factory. However, they were not pleased with the corn as it had larger kernels and wasn’t as sweet, which is common with canned corned.
Deardorff says his family was in the process of expanding its business, so it was the perfect time for him to begin supplying the corn for the festival.
While 7.5 tons of corn sounds like a lot to the average person, Deardorff says in the peak time, about 15 tons of corn will be picked on his farm each day.
The process by which corn is served at the festival also has changed during the 20-plus years Deardorff has supplied it. Initially, organizers wanted the corn on the Thursday before the festival. They would shuck it that night and then put it in plastic bags and place in a cooler.
The problem with that, Deardorff says, is that the corn in the middle of the pile didn’t get cool. That, combined with the juice leaking out from kernels that were busted during the shucking process, can sour the corn. For the first couple of years, there were complaints about sour corn being served, which prompted Deardorff to suggest a new way to store the corn.
Now it’s shucked on Friday night before the festival and stored in milk crates inside a cooler so air can circulate around all of the cobs and cool down the corn. It’s only a day old by the time it’s consumed at the festival.
And Deardorff is one of those who makes sure to sample the corn each year. He misses the parade because he’s in the fields picking and making deliveries but always arrives in time for the corn to be served.
“I wait for the line to die down, and I always have to eat some because I have to make sure it’s good,” he says with a laugh.
Deardorff says he’s proud to be able to provide the corn for his hometown’s festival. He donates $700 in corn to the festival, while the Chamber pays between $4,000 and $4,500 for the rest of the corn needed, organizers say.
This year the corn tent will be located at 10th Street, the same location as last year. Butter packets will once again be available instead of butter in pumps, which had left behind a rancid smell in past years.
The majority of the day’s events take place around the courthouse square.
Corn shucking, class reunion, vendors, entertainment and more
On Aug. 9, the 16th annual Adel-DeSoto-Minburn All Alumni Reunion will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. at ADM High School, 801 Nile Kinnick Drive.
The night before the festival about 200 volunteers will meet from 5:30 – 8 p.m. on the corner of 10th and Court streets in the parking lot of Raccoon Valley Bank to shuck the 18,000 ears that will be boiled, buttered and consumed the following day.
About 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 9, a teen dance will be held. It’s sponsored by the junior prom committee parents and will include music by the same DJ who will work during the corn shucking. The dance is just for teens, ages 13 to 19, and costs $5 to attend. Dancing lasts until 11 p.m.
The Sweet Corn Festival’s full day of events begins before the sun even rises on Aug. 10.
Vendors start arriving about 5:30 a.m. because they must be in place before the perimeter is closed off for the day’s events. They must be ready and set up no later than 8:30 a.m., though most don’t open for sales until 9 a.m.
About 56 vendors had registered for the festival as of early-July. Ward, the Chamber director, says organizers had hoped for about 90 vendors. Last year there were 83. Anyone who wants to be a vendor can call the Chamber office at 993-5472. The vendor application is available on the Chamber’s website at www.adelpartners.org.
Organizers see success with 5K run, hope to draw 650 participants
The Sweet Corn Festival’s 5-kilometer run begins at 8 a.m.
The race starts on the brick streets at 11th and Court streets near the former Adel-DeSoto-Minburn middle/high school and continues along the brick streets of Adel following part of the parade route for the Sweet Corn Festival. To see a complete view of the route, go to www.Adelsweetcorn5k.com.
While most aspects of the race will remain the same as last year, Troy Weiland, race director, says the medals have been redesigned. Medals are awarded for first through third places for both men and women overall, as well as the top two men and women placers in seven different age categories.
The 5K event started several years ago as a memorial run in honor of Danielle Hutzell, who died of cancer at the age of 28. It did not take place in 2011, and Weiland, an avid runner, decided to take it upon himself to re-organize the race for 2012.
There were 478 participants last year. Race organizers hope about 650 people will participate this year, Weiland says. As of early July, there were about 100 registered for the race, but Weiland says he has learned, based on his own experience, that there is a lot of procrastination for race sign-up.
Cost is $30, and participants are encouraged to register before the day of the race even though there is same-day registration. Prizes will be award for first through third places in both men’s and women’s categories. A prize will be awarded for the best corn-related costume on a race participant. About 25 people dressed up last year.
“You always get a few who are like ‘Hey, I’m going to be the star out there running,’ ” Weiland says.
Also at 8 a.m., the Pontiac Club of Iowa will host the Sweet Corn Festival Car Show on Court Street. It runs until 4:30 p.m.
The annual parade begins at 9:30 a.m. Radio station KIOA, 93.3 FM will broadcast live from the festival from 10 a.m. to noon.
The Bill Riley Talent Search will take place at 1 p.m. on the courthouse lawn. Participants need to sign up in advance.
Other entertainment is scheduled throughout the day. It includes:
Library used book sale, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Adel Public Library, 303 S. 10th St.
Parade, from 9:30 – 11 a.m.
Nice Bangs, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Adel Historical Museum open house, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 1129 Main St.
The Bill Riley Talent Show, from 1 – 3:15 p.m.
Adel Dance Club, from 3:15 – 4 p.m.
Let’s Dance of Adel, from 4 – 5 p.m.
Brother Trucker, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Throwing Toast, from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Volunteers are still needed to help with various aspects of the festival, specifically for checking in vendors at 5:30 a.m. the morning of the festival; in the corn tent for cooking and loading the corn, handing out plates and serving the corn; and to help in other ways during the day.
About 500 volunteers are needed to make the event a success. Anyone who wants to volunteer can call the chamber office at 993-5472.
And remember — Keep Calm. The Corn is On.