All ears for corn in Sun Prairie


Corn fest volunteers butter corn for festival patrons.

Caryn Kindkeppel, Clarion staff

For those wanting one last hurrah before summer slips into fall, the Sun Prairie Sweet Corn Festival was the event to attend.

Admission to the event on Saturday and Sunday was $1.00 per person, or $5.00 per carload of visitors. The festival grounds are in Angell Park, where on Saturday and Sunday, over 70 tons of steamed sweet corn was delivered to the park. Corn can be purchased by the ear ($2) or by the “tote” ($6), which is an open-topped cardboard box that can fit upwards of a dozen cobs.

Inside the open-air corn building, the tote customers husked their own steaming hot cobs. Volunteers behind two lines of tables were available with pans of butter to cover the corn. Then, the customers grabbed paper towels and visited the salt “tree,” where the shakers are hanging from an umbrella-style clothesline, to ensure the cobs are seasoned to their liking. However, pepper lovers had to think ahead and carry in the spice, since it wasn’t available.

Although the corn was slightly overcooked by perhaps a connoisseur’s standards, it was tasty and excellent when slathered in butter and salt. The corn was best eaten on the hill overlooking the Show-mobile stage in order to take in the scene. The festival featured musical and other acts to interest the 100,000 visitors during the four-day event. Entertainment included rock, jazz and choral music, as well as karate and dance demonstrations.

On the lower grounds, there was a midway of impressive size for a small town with carnival games, rides and food booths. Most rides were around $3 and ran the gamut from kid friendly carousels and a ferris wheel to plunging pirate ships and rides that spun wildly enough to satisfy even the most daring of riders. The games were of the traditional variety: basketball toss, balloon pop, air rifle shooting and rubber ducky river for the tots, with an assortment of gigantic plush toys as prizes for the lucky winners. Two free inflatable “bouncy houses” were also available on the lower grounds to entertain both toddlers and older children.

The other food booths around the fest were somewhat lackluster. Perhaps most people cannot find room to eat much else, after partaking in the corn tote. Soda, beer, ice cream and pulled pork were available near the corn building. Hot dogs, hamburgers, corn dogs and funnel cakes were also for sale. The cinnamon-and-sugar coated hot mini doughnuts were worth a trip to the midway area, despite their high cost to both one’s wallet ($5) and waistline. Also, it was fun to watch the doughnuts being dispensed, fried and flipped via their automatic machine.

The upper grounds of the fest held the free petting zoo area for the kids during the daytime and a beer tent for those 21 and over. The Quad Power Jump ride (featuring bungee-type cords) was available for those who were interested in a different kind of ride. Craft booths featured a variety of handmade creations to peruse, ranging from colorful cloth purses and potholders to interesting clocks made from old car hubcaps.

Overall, the Sun Prairie Corn Festival was worth a visit for people who want to have a little fun before the summer ends. Not surprisingly, the highlight of the festival is eating plenty of on-the-cob sweet corn. The festival is a great way to spend a day with family and friends and experience this local tradition.

A growing city with a population of 29,000, Sun Prairie is located about 12 miles northeast of downtown Madison. As the city’s premiere event, the festival began in 1953 and takes place every year, rain or shine, around mid-August. The 2012 event took place Aug. 16-19.