Watch the Corn Grow

Community comes together to husk and eat corn for the annual Adel Corn Festival.

By Craig Summers Black

Photography by Dan Brouillette


Adel Corn Festival“I keep track of the planting dates for the Sweet Corn Fest, and it ranged all the way from May 18 to May 30.”

He has to harvest all of his sweet corn by hand.

“Machines bruise the butt end of corn, and they harvest everything so you have to sort it.”

But at least he will be able to relax at the festival and enjoy the bounty of his labors, right?

“Saturday is another workday for me,” he says. “I haven’t seen the parade since I got into the sweet corn business.”

This is Dan Hawkins’ 27th year volunteering to man the huge and intricate broiler.

“It really cleans out your pores,” he says.

Hawkins is a local banker, but the lure of the corn fest is such that it attracts fans from afar.

Jacqueline McLaughlin of Los Angeles and her pal Mary Wilcox of Orange County discovered the festival a few years ago and now return annually to help shuck and serve corn.

“We’re the Adel Fan Club!” says McLaughlin. And she hands out one of the yellow wrist bands she had made for the day: “Adel Fan Club SCF 2010.”

Tracy Davis of the Big Island of Hawaii is here with friends, all for the first time.

“We’re all imported,” she says; she’s accompanied by coworkers Andy Hricovec of Cleveland and Sarah Neiter of Billings, Montana.

“We just love corn,” says Neiter. “It is messy, but a good messy—a rewarding messy.”

But the very first person in line for corn is a local, Jay Erickson, who is here for the eighth time.

“We’re doing a reunion,” he says. “My father-in-law is here from Gainesville. My brother is here from Stockton, California. We did the State Fair yesterday and the Sweet Corn Festival today.”

This being the festival’s 31st year, the festival officials have pretty much got the particulars down pat.
The green shucks now go to a farmer for cattle feed. The beer is sold only in recyclable plastic bottles, the empties given to the Lions Club for redemption. Automobiles are banned from town for the day. You can take the bike trail to the festivities, or the shuttles from the high school.

Seems like in celebrating the joys of consumption in all things sweet corn, they haven’t forgotten a thing.

Well, maybe one thing.

Where does a guy get some dental floss around here?