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Urbana Sweetcorn Festival highlights local options

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It's estimated that 20,000 ears of sweet corn are consumed at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. This year's festivities are taking place from Aug. 25 to Aug. 26.

It's estimated that 20,000 ears of sweet corn are consumed at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. This year's festivities are taking place from Aug. 25 to Aug. 26.

Daily Illini file photo

Daily Illini file photo

It's estimated that 20,000 ears of sweet corn are consumed at the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. This year's festivities are taking place from Aug. 25 to Aug. 26.

Taylor Wegner, Staff writer

The 43rd iteration of the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival is taking place this year from Friday, Aug. 25 to Saturday, Aug. 26. The festival, held annually in downtown Urbana, celebrates the area’s vibrant community culture by highlighting local vendors, chefs, artists of all sorts, and of course, cornall without an entrance fee.

The Urbana Sweetcorn Festival was started back in 1975 by a number of Busey Bank employees. Eventually, it was acquired by the Urbana Business Association, and continues to be coordinated by this group. By now, the festival is tradition.

Megan Casey, the marketing and event manager of the Urbana Business Association, has overseen the planning of this year’s event, from inception to fruition. She, along with Paris Baldarotta – the executive director of the UBA – has been responsible for managing volunteers, vendors and all other aspects of the festival.

“We are the small but mighty team that does it allwith the help of amazing community volunteers,” Casey said.

The central mission for this year’s Urbana Sweetcorn Festival is to emphasize the local aspects of the event.

The corn comes from Maddox Farms in Warrensburg, Ill., just under an hour west of Urbana. Approximately 20,000 ears of corn, prepared in an antique steamer, are consumed annually at the Urbana Sweet Corn Festival, according to the Festival’s website. With sustainability in mind, the coordinators have made it a priority to compost the resulting large quantity of plant waste.

Although the festival is named after sweetcorn, the event is about much more than this Illinois staple. It highlights multiple aspects of Urbana’s vibrant community culture, such as its food, music and artistic scenes, as well as those of surrounding towns in central Illinois.

The reasons for highlighting central Illinoisan culture exceed pride and economy.

“By honing in on our local feel we are able to keep dollars in our community rather than pull in big vendors or acts from other states that will leave after the festival is finished,” Casey said. “Our community is very rich with talented entrepreneurs, artists and service organizations and we want to highlight that through our festival this year.”

Though the festival has staged large musical acts in the past, such as the Psychedelic Furs and Smashmouth, the coordinators decided to root the entertainment closer to home this year. The performance schedule, spanning two nights, is filled with locally and regionally known acts that perform music of various genres, including classic rock, blues and R&B.

“Paris and I received inquiries from local, regional, and national bands, that we then sorted through with a few of our musically inclined associates,” Casey said of the selection process.

The Folk & Roots shows have their own distinct lineup, though, to fit in with the festival’s focus on Central Illinois.

Although the festival is rapidly approaching, there are still opportunities for volunteers and local vendors to participate. The deadline for vendors was July 31, but the event coordinators are still accepting applications to fill up the very limited amount of space that remains.

Volunteers, on the other hand, are encouraged to sign up until the Thursday before the festival in order to help with ticket booths, beer stands, recycling stations and more. Volunteers even receive perks, such as a festival t-shirt, beverages and a free ear of corn as a gesture of thanks. 

With the introduction of new events, such as the family friendly Krannert Kids Zone, the demand for volunteers is higher than previous years.

Numerous other kid and family friendly activities and events take place throughout the day on Saturday, aside from the entertainment that is scheduled late Friday and Saturday night.

For instance, there are corn eating competitions that guests can sign up for, as well as face painting stands, inflatable slides and a car show.

Sponsors, too, still have time to contribute to the festival. It is through the help of sponsors, volunteers, and vendors, as well as funds received from corn and drink cup purchases, that admittance to the festival is able to be offered to the 40-50,000 annual attendees for free.

For more information on this year’s Urbana Sweetcorn Festival, and to get involved, visit the event’s homepage at https://urbanasweetcornfestival.com/.

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