Chairperson talks DeKalb Corn Fest history, tradition

By Keith Hernandez

After almost four decades, DeKalb’s love of corn is still going strong.

Corn Fest is a free annual festival that takes place in downtown DeKalb. The celebration, which includes music performances, rides and art activities, attracts thousands of residents every year and dozens of vendors. People don’t just go for the music and attractions, however.

The staple of the tradition has been the giving away of free ears of corn, which is donated by Del Monte. The company donates more 30,000 ears of corn annually for the festival, said Lisa Angel, DeKalb Corn Fest chairperson.

The corn “is literally picked the day before and shipped in at 4 p.m. on the Saturday of the festival, and we have a steam engine that boils the water,” Angel said. “You know, we’ve all had corn on the cob before, but you’ve never tasted anything like this. This is literally picked and served in 24 hours.”


Corn Fest originated from an already established tradition known as the Corn Boil. Corn Boil started when Del Monte began donating corn to DeKalb as a part of their harvest, Angel said.

It wasn’t until 1977 that vendors and music performers entered the equation. From then, the Corn Boil officially became Corn Fest, as we know it today.

Corn Fest 2015

Some of the proceeds from this year’s Corn Fest will go to TAILS Humane Society and victims of the April 9 tornado that destroyed parts of Rochelle and Fairdale, and left two dead.

Each household that was displaced by the tornado will be given free weekend wrist bands for rides and performances, Angel said.

“So, we want to make sure that they can come down all weekend and the kids can have a good time and they don’t have to worry about money,” Angel said. “And then after the fact … we make a donation to both of those charities.”

Angel, who has been the DeKalb Corn Fest chairperson for five years said the love of the community is the main reason she and other Corn Fest volunteers put on the event.

“A lot of people say, ‘Why do you do that?’ And I say, ‘If we didn’t do that, who would,’ Angel said. “I think everyone comes together because it is such an amazing festival and it’s … our home-grown festival, and we try to give back to the community through it every year.”