Sweetcorn Festival returns to Urbana for 42nd year

Photo by David Saveanu | Crowds visit vendors on Main Street in Downtown Urbana during the  42nd Annual Sweetcorn Festival.

Photo by David Saveanu | Crowds visit vendors on Main Street in Downtown Urbana during the 42nd Annual Sweetcorn Festival.

David Saveanu

Staff Writer

Last Friday and Saturday marked the 42nd year of the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival, an annual tradition with a focus on providing local businesses and entertainment groups a medium to showcase their services and impact on the community.

The festival was open to anyone and free-of-charge. Families came from all surrounding towns along with students from the University of Illinois and Parkland to enjoy the festival.

The festival had two different stages: a main stage and a folk and roots stage. Between the two stages, 15 different artists of different genres performed. Many visitors came for the music and to see the large variety of Champaign County’s musical groups and artists.

“It’s been really cool. I didn’t realize that they had so many different bands playing—the stage is awesome,” said U of I junior John Foot. “This is my first time [and] I’d love to come back; I’ll be here next year.”

Last year, the famous rock band Smash Mouth played at the festival. This grabbed the attention of a lot of patrons who aren’t local. Many returned this year for the music and ambience they previously experienced.

Food is yet another trait the festival is famous for, alongside its sweet corn and music. Food trucks from 30 local food vendors from all around Champaign County came out to show off their best dishes.

The most popular dishes served were barbeque ribs and pulled pork, with numerous restaurants tending to what seemed like never-ending lines of anticipating customers. The funnel cakes are an attraction added within the last few years that have been extremely popular amongst visitors.

“While I wasn’t very familiar with what the sweet corn festival was,” said U of I student Lucas Simes, “Now, I see it’s like a classic all-American festival with fried foods and everything like that. I love it. [I’m] planning on getting some barbeque myself, perhaps a funnel cake.”

The main attraction of the festival, the sweet corn, is provided by a nearby farm called Maddox Sweet Corn Farm. The festival cooks the corn using an antique steam engine, giving the corn an authentic Central Illinois taste.

Paris Baldarotta, the executive director of the Urbana Business Association said that the festival is meant to be a fun family event.

“It is a family friendly festival,” said Baldarotta. “We’ve incorporated a lot of aspects like, classic corn eating contests. This year we had a kids’, women’s and men’s division, where everyone was able to be timed on how many ears of corn they can eat. We have C-U Adventures in Time and Space where you can win prizes by solving games throughout the festival.”

Kids were seen running around all day with painted faces, holding neon colored ice cones and enjoying the activities available. Along with all the companies providing small fun games for the kids, there were also inflatable slides and jump houses in a designated children’s area.

“We serve 20,000 ears of corn every year, a thousand pounds of butter are used to soak that corn in [and] 50,000 festival-goers get to enjoy that corn every year,” said Baldarotta. talking about the sheer size of the festival, and all the work that goes into giving the visitors a grand experience.

“What we wanted to do was highlight our local businesses, our local vendors, our local entertainment and take the festival back to its roots,” said Baldarotta.

The festival returns annually around the end of August. For more information, visit urbanasweetcornfestival.com.