Corn festival comes to C-U

By Maureen Wilkey

People in the Champaign-Urbana area can enjoy one last taste of summer this weekend at the 29th Annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. The festival takes place in the streets of downtown Urbana, near Lincoln Square Mall on West Main Street, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday.

For the first time, festival visitors will be able to enjoy Illinois “super sweet” corn cooked in an antique steam engine for both days of the festival. In previous years, corn was only cooked on Saturday.

In addition to the corn, the festival will feature live entertainment, with the band Head East performing Friday night and Gregg Rolie, the original singer of the band Santana, performing Saturday night. Admission to the festival and concerts is free.

“The festival really brings pride to Urbana,” said festival coordinator Tina Lam. “There’s a nice downtown here, and the festival gives people a chance to see what’s in it.”

Another returning feature of the festival is the Arts Boulevard area, where local artists set up their wares along Main Street for visitors to admire and perhaps purchase. Arts Boulevard began last year and has expanded this year to include 18 artists who will display a variety of arts such as paintings, photography, jewelry and drawings.

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    “We decided to have the show to promote the arts and showcase local talent,” said Arts Boulevard coordinator Nani Baker. “It really brings everyone together.”

    For children and families, there will be a play area that includes a petting zoo and a face-painting booth. Car buffs can enjoy the 8th Annual Motor Muster show, which displays original, restored custom cars that are 25 years old or older.

    Inside the Urbana Civic Center, local residents can bring their dogs to compete in an amateur dog show. Prizes will be awarded for best purebred, best mixed breed, best trick, best owner-dog look-alike and best in show.

    “There really is something for everyone here,” Lam said. “The dog show, the car show and Arts Boulevard should be a lot of fun and a good way to bring people downtown.”

    Close to 400 volunteers take part in the festival each year, said volunteer coordinator Genevieve Barich. She is still seeking a few more volunteers to serve food, beer and drinks and work at the hospitality tent.

    “The festival really attracts a wide range of both visitors and volunteers,” Barich said. “It’s a pretty cool festival.”

    Lam said she expects about 40,000 visitors coming from different areas of the state, assuming it doesn’t rain. Baker said that although the event draws in people from all over, she would like to see more students attend.

    “The students always come for the entertainment,” Baker said. “But there is a lot to do here, and it would be nice to see more students come out.”

    For more information, visit the festival Web site at