Summer has many “food seasons.” For example, in early summer there is strawberry season. By mid summer tomatoes are coming into their own along with cucumbers. Late in the summer is sweet corn season. In each of the “food seasons” there are celebrations in some communities focused on the harvest of a particular food. The annual Urbana (Illinois) Sweet Corn Festival is one such venue that draws people in from all around central Illinois and then some. If you love sweet corn this is the place to be.
The machinery is right out of the history books. A steam tractor supplies energy. A cornhusker takes on the tedious work of cleaning thousands of ears of corn.
What you get is hot buttered sweet corn that is out of this world.
This is real butter. Even if you are on a diet, one ear of corn is worth following off the wagon.
How Sweet It Is!
But the festival is more than corn. There are street concerts, food trucks and activities for children. The Urbana Sweet Corn Festival has something for everyone. If you are in the area next August, you may want to add this to your calendar for a fun weekend.
My wife and I took a vacation day to attend the Indiana Covered Bridge Festival in mid October 2013. The festival primarily covered three Indiana towns, Bridgeton, Mansfield, and Rockville. Each town had its own festival characteristics. Bridgeton was more like a tent city with few permanent structures and unpaved roads. Mansfield consisted of a combination of many tents and many more physical structures, including some historic buildings with about two paved roads. Rockville’s festival was integrated into a formal town with some tents that were interspersed on the sidewalks.
Mansfield and Bridgeton had covered bridges and grist mills. The Bridgeton Bridge had burned down as the result of arson but was rebuilt in 2006. It is no longer connected to the road that passes through town and now sits silently next to a new roadway bridge. The Bridgeton mill was the most interesting because you take the stairs to its three floors viewing the machinery on each level. It represented a time when the nation was becoming industrialized. The internal operation of the mill was made with wood, leather and metal components that I suspect were assembled on site.
The bridges and mills didn’t seem to be the focal point for most people. They were more interested in the dozens of eateries, and shopping. Some of the food was hearty fare including ham, beans, and corn bread. Another example was chicken soup with a side of mashed potatoes with gravy, and a role; how’s that for starch? Most of the rest of the food was typical of a carnival with staples of elephant ears, soft pretzels, ice cream, fudge, fried chicken and vegetables.
The shopping was interesting. Some of the products were made by hand. These items included hats, rugs, wooden signs, wood carved by chain saws into animal figures, potpourri, ceramics, and architectural wonders made of metal. Other products look like they came from companies dumping their inventories, like socks and work or garden gloves lined up in boxes by the dozens. Other vendors sold inexpensive costume jewelry, plastic puzzle lights and knock off perfumes and purses. Some of the more unusual items were animal hides and tools.
Take time to sample the local seasonal customs and celebrations they can be fun.