Thousands of Iowans will descend upon Adel in a few short weeks to devour 7.5 tons, or approximately 18,000 ears, of sweet corn.
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, says Linda Boettcher, director of the Adel Partners Chamber of Commerce.
“Now, it has just exploded into we give free sweet corn to everybody who comes,” she says.
An estimated 12,000 people — a new record — attended the Sweet Corn Festival last year, Boettcher says. Average attendance is usually about 10,000, but she says the Chamber advertised the event more heavily, and that it was more talked about in the community.
“It’s just getting more popular,” Boettcher says. “Everybody loves the sweet corn.”
This year, she says she advertised the event in a statewide magazine, which means “we might get more (people) than we have room for.”
The free sweet corn is served starting about 10 a.m. or as soon as the parade is finished. She says if people want to make sure they get some corn, they have to come early and can’t wait until mid to late afternoon.
“They’re not happy (when we run out),” she says. “But that’s why we advertise ‘free sweet corn until it’s gone.’ That’s all we can say.”
About three 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.
“We really wanted to keep it to 3 (p.m.) if we could” before we run out, Boettcher says. “We keep running out earlier and earlier and earlier, and the lines keep getting longer. We’re hoping this year that (Deardorff’s) has plenty of corn, and hopefully, the drought doesn’t affect them.”
Ron Deardorff of Adel, owner of Deardorff’s Sweet Corn, has supplied the corn for the festival for about 20 years. About 1.5 to 2 acres of the 230 acres of sweet corn he plants goes toward the festival.
“I’ve got so many plantings, so I always have some ready for the festival,” he says.
The sweet corn for the festival is planted on the best soil in a lower-lying area, where the corn should be able to tap more moisture from the soil, though some rain would help, he says.
“Right now our corn is looking all right,” Deardorff says. “You can tell there’s some stress.”
He says the corn will be ready in time for the festival, though the efforts of drought could mean smaller ears with some kernels not developing.
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, Boettcher says.
This year at the festival, the corn tent has been moved to 10th Street from Ninth Street and will swap places with the children’s rides.
Boettcher says there were complaints from nearby residents about last year’s decision to have butter in pumps, which meant it dripped like water off plates as attendees loaded up and walked away. The pools of butter on the ground left a rancid smell that made neighbors turn up their noses. The committee decided to switch to butter packets this year.
The majority of the day’s events take place around the Courthouse square. The night before the festival, about 200 volunteers will meet from 5:30 to 7:30 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 p.m. Aug. 10, 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.
The Sweet Corn Festival’s full day of events begins before the sun even rises on Aug. 11.
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 75 vendors had registered for the festival as of mid-July, though Boettcher says she was hoping about 90 would be signed up by the festival date. 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.
The Sweet Corn Festival’s revitalized 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.
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, but it did not take place last year. Troy Weiland, a runner who has participated in numerous running events from Dam 2 Dam in Des Moines to the Boston Marathon, was disappointed the event did not happen. He decided to take it upon himself to re-organize the race for 2012.
“I’m an avid runner, and when they didn’t have it, it was a huge disappointment, and the community echoes that,” says Weiland, who is race director and recently retired from a 30-year military career.
The race route has changed to coincide with part of the parade route in order to get more spectators to cheer on racers and to allow for more excitement at the finish line, Weiland says.
“We think it’s a better route,” he says. “I’ve ran it already, and I thought it was a great course. You don’t have to cross any major intersections.”
About 400 people participated in the last 5K when it was held in 2010. Weiland hopes about 800 will participate this year.
Cost is $20. Prizes will be award for first through third places in both men’s and women’s categories. There also will be a prize for the best corn-related costume on a race participant.
“We tried to incorporate some fun,” Weiland says.
Boettcher says the 5K organizers have done a great job bringing back and organizing the race.
“I’m hoping they will bring that many more people to the festival,” she 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.
New this year to the festival is the Bill Riley Talent Search. It will take place at noon on the Courthouse lawn. Participants need to sign up in advance.
Other entertainment is scheduled throughout the day. It includes:
• Beau Nystrom Band, a country rock band, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• GottaZing, from 1 – 1:30 p.m.
• German Brass Band, from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
• The Sugar Creek Cloggers about 2 p.m. after the Talent Search at Ninth and Main streets.
• Adel Tumbling and Dance Club about 2:30 on the Courthouse lawn.
• Let’s Dance of Adel, from 2:45 – 3:45 p.m.
• Adel Dance Club from 4 – 4:45 p.m.
• Sydney Lett, a local country music singer from Des Moines, from 5:15 – 7:15 p.m.
• Toaster, a cover band, from 8 p.m. to midnight.
• The Korn Patch Klowns at the Chamber Booth.
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.
Boettcher says about 500 volunteers are needed to make the event a success. Anyone who wants to volunteer can call the Chamber office at 993-5472.