Cornfest plans include 30,000 ears and more

By Marianne Renner

Year after year, DeKalb area residents enjoy the fun, music and food during DeKalb’s annual Cornfest, but few realize the months of planning that go into the festivities.

Cornfest Chairman Pat LaVigne said she began planning last November. She said although she contacts volunteers to participate in the weekend celebration, many local residents contact her to add their special touches.

“The library contacted me and asked what they could do. This will be the first year they will have a puppet show and story-teller.”

Another first time event will be a cook-off sponsored by the Farm Bureau. LaVigne said contestants will compete with recipes made from corn.

WDEK-FM Radio Disc Jockey Dave Bavido is the planning mind behind the soundstage, which will provide music for Cornfest August 27 and 28. Bavido, executive producer for the soundstage, said he has been planning and booking bands for about eight months.

“There is a lot more to it than securing the bands,” he said. The job includes details from reserving the parking lot, to coordinating security and set-up.

WDEK will broadcast live between bands including Mr. Myers, JP and the Cats, the Indigos and the Tami Show, which recently played back up for Huey Lewis and the News.

Bavido said since last January he has searched for bands to perform at the Cornfest. “I went to record release parties, where I would listen to bands,” he said.

Bavido said he wanted to get a variety of music from the bands and in fact ended up with a combination of rhythem and blues, rock n‘ roll, jazz, calypso, new country, top 40, acoustic pop and ’50s and ‘60s.

While listening to music, Cornfest goers will consume about 30,000 ears—nearly nine tons—of corn supplied by the Del Monte Corporation, 2009 Maplewood Ave. The amount is an increase of about four tons; the first official Cornfest was held in 1958 when five tons of Del Monte corn was cooked via an old farm steam engine.

Del Monte opened its processing plant in DeKalb in 1926 where it sponsored Corn Days. This event featured corn on the cob, a farmers’ market and other events to bring local residents together.

Del Monte’s crops contain 7,000 acres of corn, but this year they will have to look for it elsewhere. LaVigne said because of the lack of rain this summer, Del Monte will have the corn shipped in.

LaVigne said the same traditional steam engine used in 1958 is still hauled into DeKalb every year to steam the corn.

The free Corn Boil will take place August 27 at 11:30 a.m. and will continue throughout the afternoon.

But people will still be able to purchase corn, both roasted and boiled, all weekend along Lincoln Highway.

LaVigne said a shuttle bus will run to decrease the parking problems that have occurred in the past. “We will have guards at some of the parking lots to warn people that they might be towed,” she said.

LaVigne said she expects more than 150,000 Cornfest goers, which was about last year’s amount.

A collection of pictures will be taken of Cornfest and made into an album, LaVigne said. This album eventually will be stored in the DeKalb Public Library. “This way you will be able to look back on the tradition.”

On the hour-long DeKalb historical tour, participants will take a shuttle through DeKalb and learn about things they never thought would be in DeKalb, LaVigne said.

An information booth will be set up on Lincoln Highway so those who attend can get information about activities for the weekend.

Other activities planned for the three-day weekend include:

sidewalk sales, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

carnival, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

ice cream eating contest, Friday

street dance, Friday

Auto Fest, Saturday

0K race, Saturday

art fest, Saturday and Sunday

Egyptian Theatre tours, Saturday

senior fest bingo, Saturday

senior fest rummage and bake sale, Saturday

beer and wine garden, Saturday and Sunday

Kickathon, Sunday

Corny Cow Contest Land Auction, Sunday