Corn Fest prepares for next year in wake of 2020 cancellation

Corn+changes+color+as+fall+approaches+along+Highway+88%2C+on+September+1st.

Patrick Murphy

Corn changes color as fall approaches along Highway 88, on September 1st.

Parker Otto, Reporter

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, NIU’s move-in weekend went without one of DeKalb’s most famous attractions: Corn Fest. The 2020 Corn Fest, originally scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 28, was cancelled on July 3. However, the Corn Fest Organization has still found ways to give to the people of DeKalb while planning for 2021’s festival.

“When the pandemic struck, we [ Corn Fest organizers] paid close attention to track what the governor and scientists were saying on the spread and prevention of COVID-19,” Corn Fest Chairperson Lisa Angel said. “When we realized there was no safe way to hold the festival, we cancelled it.”

Corn Fest is a three day festival that takes place in Downtown DeKalb and it usually coincides with the beginning of NIU’s academic year. Originally a small corn boil in 1957, Corn Fest took its current form in 1977 and now attracts over 100,000 people, according to the Corn Fest website.

The festival has attractions that appeal to both adults and children including a beer garden, car show and a carnival. The live music has also attracted numerous, A-List bands with past musical acts including Lady A, Joan Jett and Blue Oyster Cult, according to the Corn Fest website. The festival also stimulates the local economy and helps bring business to hotels, restaurants and bars, Angel said.

The event provides an opportunity for students to discover what DeKalb has to offer as well as chances to volunteer since the festival takes place at the beginning of NIU’s fall semester.

“Many of the fraternities, sororities and service groups volunteer over the weekend and get all of their community hours done before school even begins,” Angel said. “They usually come to us early every year to sign up so we are never without volunteers which is a great help as we need between 250 and 300 over the weekend.”

Plans have already begun for 2021’s festival with a schedule set for Aug. 27, 18 and 29. Musical groups have also been booked for the festival’s sound stage including Back Country Roads, Mellencouger and Hi Infidelity, according to a July 24 announcement on the Corn Fest Facebook page.

Every year the Corn Fest non-profit organization selects a non-profit organization to donate the money raised from the fest. 

“We look for local charities that are in need of financial assistance from the area,” Angel said. “Many [of these charities] have helped out at Corn Fest and we always take that into account as well.”

The 2020 recipient was the Opportunity House, 357 North California St., Sycamore. This is an organization that helps “people with developmental disabilities work, live in homes of their choice and enjoy community life,” according to the Opportunity House website. 

Measures were made by the Corn Fest non-profit to continue to raise money for the Opportunity House non-profit, according to the Corn Fest website. This included selling t-shirts to commemorate the cancelled festival, saying “Corn Fest Canned for 2020,” which raised $3,000 for the Opportunity House, Angel said. In addition, OLT Marketing, the designers of the t-shirts, donated $1,000 for a total of $4,000 donated to the Opportunity House. The Opportunity House will also receive funds raised from the 2021 festival.

Angel said she encourages those who are interested in helping the Opportunity House to volunteer and promised great things for 2021’s Corn Fest.

“Our hopes are, when the pandemic is over and we are able to hold the festival, 2021 will be a celebration like no other when we are able to enjoy being around others again,” Angel said.