Tableau of the Iwo Jima flag-raising - parade float commemorating 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, 1991. Photo courtesy of the Mendota Reporter
Mendota Annual Sweet Corn Festival
Plentiful free servings of hot, buttered sweet corn
highlight this annual Mendota celebration of the harvest and the
spirit of Illinois on the second full weekend in August. Mendota,
"the crossing of the trails" in the language of the Native
Americans who once lived in the area, is within a 75-mile radius of
Chicago, Peoria, and Rockford. As its highlight, the festival
features a beauty pageant in which local high-school girls compete
for the coveted title of "Miss Sweet Corn Queen." Also offered are
a parade, a carnival, musical entertainment, craft and flea
markets, ethnic cuisine, and such local attractions such as corn
throwing, husband calling, and contests for the oldest and youngest
farm couple, largest farm family and tallest stalk of corn.
One of the largest harvest festivals in the Midwest,
the volunteer-run event was started in 1948, though roots of an
Mendota event with the same central theme and activities date back
to 1910. In 1949, Harry Schaller brought his antique steam engine
and put it to use cooking the corn in a tank of water heated by
steam from the engine, a tradition that continues to this day. Over
the years, corn servings have grown from eight tons to over 60 tons
of corn served. Beginning with the 1949 completion of a corn and
pea plant, taking advantage of its bountiful local crops, Mendota
has been home to a large Calpak (later Del Monte) operation.
The project is documented with Silver anniversary
(1972) and 50th anniversary (1998) booklets on the Sweet Corn
Festival, twelve 8 x 10 black-and-white photographs, a "Sweet Corn
Festival Scrapbook," published by the Mendota Reporter in tabloid
newspaper format for the 1999 Festival, and promotional brochures
from various years of the event.
Originally submitted by: J. Dennis Hastert, Representative (14th District).
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.