Campus prepares for Pre-Sweetcorn Bash

Friday night, the Urbana Business Association will hold its second “Pre-Sweetcorn Bash,” a festival aiming to give attendees a taste of things to come at the annual Sweetcorn Festival.

The main festival, to be held on August 28-29, is the largest of its kind in Champaign County. According to the Urbana Business Association’s Web site, it garners more than 65,000 Central Illinois residents each year. Several local businesses unite to sponsor standard festival fare such as live music, petting zoos and pony rides, in addition to ears of sweetcorn, freshly cooked in vegetable oil.

While the Sweetcorn Festival is entering its 34th year, Friday’s Pre-Bash is only in its second year, though changes have been made since last year.

“(Last year), we confined it to sponsors, vendors, et cetera in downtown Urbana,” said Susan Toalson, executive director of the Urbana Business Association. “This one is more of a mini street festival.”

Among the changes is the location, which has moved to the Krannert Center district on South Gregory Street. Toalson attributed the shift to a new relationship the UBA is developing with the district.

“Part of it was highlighting that district for the community,” Toalson said, adding that the festival aimed to bring in people who might not ordinarily frequent University districts.

Toalson said the area has a lot to offer, listing locations such as Blues BBQ, Sandella’s Flatbread Café, Manolo’s Pizza and Empanadas, Basil Thai and Rosati’s Pizza.

“I think a lot of the reason for this is just to let the campus know that this area of campus exists with the various food places,” said Chris Fetters, co-owner of Sandella’s, adding that most of his restaurant’s business comes from the University, with the wider community only beginning to discover it.

The Pre-Sweetcorn Bash will also be more family-oriented, Toalson said. Unlike the main festival, no alcohol will be served. Attractions include the Spurlock Museum, open until 9 p.m., Camille Born storytelling from 5:30-6 p.m. and the Tons O’ Fun Band, which will play from 7-9 p.m.

Steve Shaw, manager, owner and trumpet-player for Tons O’ Fun, described his band as a mixture of “a lot of your old rhythm and blues, Chicago rock, with a little jazz influence.”

This is the bands’ first time performing at the Pre-Sweetcorn festival, but it has opened for acts at the main festival, as well as performing at the Champaign Freedom Celebration from 2006-2008.

In addition, Krannert Center will be displaying information for its 2009-2010 events, and local vendors, many of whom will be participating in the main festival, will provide free food samples.

Finally, the Bash will also announce the Sweetcorn Festival’s headlining musical band.

“We have secured the main act, that announcement will be made at the Pre-Sweetcorn,” Toalson said. “So, hopefully the weather will hold up, and it’ll be a really nice night.”