Sweet corn!

IMG_5535Nothing says “summer in Iowa” more than fresh, local sweet corn. And nobody does sweet corn better than Adel, Iowa, at its annual sweet corn festival.

This weekend was the third time I’ve attended the festival. It’s a great time: There’s a Sweet Corn Princess contest, 5K race, parade, beer garden, entertainment, vendors…and CORN. Lots and lots of free corn.

And here’s the amazing thing: On Friday night, when about seven and a half tons of Deardorff sweet corn appears on flatbed trucks in a downtown parking lot across from the fire station, more than 200 Adel folks show up to shuck it. Moms, dads, little kids, grandparents…they’re all there, shucking away.

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Most are laughing, some are drinking a bit, and everyone is having fun. It’s a real community-wide effort that makes the corn taste even better the next day.

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And it is delicious. It’s boiled in a huge corn cooker specially engineered by local resident Kenny Chapman. The process is amazing to watch: 24 yellow milk crates, each holding three dozen ears of corn, are submerged at once in the boiling, steaming water for about eight minutes. It takes a huge crew of volunteers to set the crates on a conveyor belt, feed them into the cooker, pull the crates filled with cooked corn out of the cooker, dump them into the waiting stainless-steel serving station, and serve them to the hungry masses — see the line below, it gets to be a couple of blocks long.

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Volunteers give away about 15,000 ears of corn at the Sweet Corn Festival, now in its 36th year.

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