The Corn Festival
The Mendota Corn Festival comes around once a year in mid-August. My husband and I try to make it there annually if we can manage it because we think it’s one of the best festivals on offer in Illinois. Why prey-tell? For several reasons, do you have “ears” to hear them?
First, it’s a great opportunity to get away from the city and suburbs of Chicago and experience a little bit of country – just for the day. My husband and I find being able to do this invaluable. Driving away from the noise and congestion of our suburb – that’s near the city, helps to keep us sane. We leave mid-morning on Sunday to go to corn fest which enables us to get to Mendota in time for the parade at 1 PM. So if you’re inclined to go to church or sleep-in on a Sunday, you can still make it to the parade.
This is no ordinary parade, or at least in my opinion it’s not. Consider that once you get to Mendota, you are situated in the midst of corn fields. Then consider that you will be entertained by the Jesse White Tumblers and a large well known drill team who are part of the parade. Yes, they made the trip to Mendota too. You will also see/hear an old fashioned calliope being played, bag pipe players, a small revolutionary war style drum corp., and of course the Mendota High School marching band. Yes, there will be politicians, noisy fire trucks, and Shriners galore. But there will also be people dressed up as corn on the cob on stilts, clowns, and an opportunity for you to pay your respects to those who have served our country.
At some point during the parade you’ll hear a train whistle blow. Although there is an Amtrak train that runs right through Mendota – alongside the small railroad museum, the whistle you will hear is indicative that the free corn on the cob is ready to eat. That’s right, it’s free. Don’t feel like you need to run to get in line; there is plenty for everybody! In fact, my husband (Peter) and I usually go and explore the flea market and craft area that is part of the festival before we go and get corn. The flea market/craft area is small, but you never know what you’ll find there.
Once we’ve done a little exploring, then and only then will we go and get our free corn. It’s served 3 cobs at a time on paper plates, pre-dipped in butter sauce, and salt is available for you to season it to taste. You will see people leave the free corn area with paper plates stacked high with corn. Some people even bring tupperware or other containers so that they can bring the corn home with them. Feel free to do the same. The folks at Del Monte sponsor the serving of the free corn – thanks to them!
Of course, there is other midway carnival style food available too. This year I noticed South American arepas were on offer. Arepas are fried corn cakes that are often filled like sandwiches. They are a staple in Valenzuela and Columbia and have migrated state side. Along with the midway food are midway rides for both big and little kids. In past years there has also been free musical entertainment.
One last kernel of information about corn days, if you haven’t had your fill of corn upon leaving the festival, look for the people selling corn on the cob bay the bag full close to the train station. It’s really inexpensive and there’s so much you can do with it! (-including freezing it so you can experience fresh, sweet, late summer corn in the winter.)