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Food is often the star of fall festivals

sweet corn at Minier Corn Daze

Cassie Miller and crew serve up free sweet corn at Minier Corn Daze.

strolling magician

A strolling magician adds pizzazz at Minier Corn Daze.

MINIER, Ill. — The satisfying sounds, sights and smells of late summer and early fall festivals are here. So many of the events revolve around food and harvest, including apples, pumpkins and peaches.

Sweet corn is the star at Minier Corn Daze in August, where the sweet corn is free, along with viewing antique cars and interacting with a roving magician.

Gene Nafziger of Minier

Gene Nafziger of Minier, Ill., doesn’t mind loading his heavy engine, made in Moline in 1916, to share it with people attending his community’s Corn Daze.

For Gene Nafziger of Minier, the antique equipment on exhibit at such events is worth seeing and sharing. He makes an effort to show his R&V engine, made in Moline in 1916, when he can.

“I was always interested in the design and fascinated by it,” he said.

Volunteers make it work

Community volunteers stepped in to save Corn Daze when its organizer, the Minier Development Council, disbanded. Today the Kiwanis Club and Village of Minier keep the popular event going, said one of the exhibitors, Caroline Hansen.

“Nobody wants to see a tradition die,” she said. “When it’s time, volunteers come out.”

Antique tractor enthusiast Rich Brew has been working for months getting ready for the 38th annual River Valley Antique Association Old Fashioned Tractor Show and Swap meet Aug. 20-21 in Mapleton, Illinois. His favorite part is the tractor parade.

Volunteers worked extra hard this year to celebrate the 75th annual Sweet Corn Festival in Mendota in northern Illinois Aug. 11-14. The Mendota Area Chamber of Commerce estimates about 60,000 visitors consume more than 50 tons of free sweet corn during the festival.

Every day a festival

While the festivals are plentiful in the Midwest, some farms hold festivals all season.

“Our philosophy is to try to make every day, especially the weekend, like a festival,” said Randy Graham, co-owner of Curtis Orchard and Pumpkin Patch in Champaign, Illinois.

There are many chances for families to enjoy the farm, he said, and no rain-outs.

The farm has been in the family in eastern Illinois since 1873. For most of its history, corn, soybeans and hogs fed the family. By 1956, the farm was too small for Paul Curtis to support his family, so he worked full-time elsewhere.

In the early ’70s he had a vision for the farm to welcome visitors. In 1977, he planted 700 trees on 3 acres. The next year he planted another 1,700 and by 1980 they had their first apple crop.

When the apple crop failed with bad weather, they bought a cider press, with apple cider becoming a stable product.

Graham married Curtis’ daughter Debbie and they raised five children here while growing the agri-tourism business.

When Graham noticed a grain bin looked like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, their theme was established. People now walk down the yellow brick road, and in the fall a group of characters in costume stroll through the farm.

“We have fun with it,” said Graham, who is also president of the Illinois Specialty Growers Association.

Car Show

Festivals for fun

A small taste of things to do throughout the Midwest this fall:

Illinois

  • Aug. 20-21: River Valley Association 38th annual Old Fashioned Tractor Show and Swap Meet, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Butler Hanes Park, 9424 Mapleton Road, Mapleton. Contact Rich Brew, 309-620-1527.
  • Aug. 27-28: Sweet Corn Festival, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Uptown Normal. More than 50,000 ears of fresh sweet corn, music, arts, crafts.
  • Sept. 10-11: Popcorn Days, Ridgway. Entertainment, amusement rides, games, free popcorn, and the big parade Saturday at 1 p.m.
  • Sept. 14-17: Morton Pumpkin Festival, Morton. Theme for 2022 is Pumpkins Go 80s.
  • Sept. 14-18: 71st annual Murphysboro Apple Festival, a tradition in Southern Illinois with food, arts and crafts and a parade.
  • Sept. 17: Golconda Shrimp Festival: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.. The event was named the No. 1 Food Festival in the state of Illinois by National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Iowa

  • Sept. 10: Music on the Farm at Loess Hills Lavender Farm, 2278 Loess Hills Trail, Missouri Valley. Contact 712-642-9016.
  • Oct. 1: Anamosa Pumpkin Fest in Iowa’s Pumpkin Capitol includes the Great Pumpkin Weigh-in and the first Smokin’ Pumpkin BBQ Competition. More information at www.anamosapumpkinfest.com.

Missouri

  • Sept. 24, 25, 30 and Oct. 1-2: Brunswick Pecan Festival.
  • Sept. 27 through Oct. 2: Cotton Carnival in Sikeston.
  • Throughout October: Scarecrow Festival, Eureka, featuring artfully designed scarecrows posing in front of businesses, churches, schools, and private homes.
  • Oct. 29-30: Apple Butter Festival, Kimmswick. Over 500 vendors, live entertainment, food and features a number of kids activities including pony rides, train rides, climbing wall, face painting, petting zoo.

Nebraska

  • Sept. 16-18 and 24-25: Apple Jack Festival, two big weekends of activities. More information at bit.ly/3vXDCNA.
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Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.

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