Elkader Sweet Corn Days includes new events, vendors

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Elkader’s annual Sweet Corn Days will be Thursday, July 28 through Sunday, July 31. The event features many fun, traditional activities as well as some new ones. (Times-Register file photo)

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


“It’s about bringing the community together, welcoming friends and family back ‘home,’ creating a place for everyone to feel safe and have fun…Making lasting memories with friends and family, reconnecting with old friends and creating that desire for those who no longer live here to always want to come back and never miss a Sweet Corn Days.” 


That’s the core message of Elkader’s Sweet Corn Days (SCD), according to SCD committee co-chair Danielle Shea. The event—which runs from Thursday to Sunday, July 28 to 31—promotes itself as the annual summer festival with a “fun filled long weekend of activities, live music, smiles and laughter.” 


But all events, even the fun filled ones, come with challenges, and this year is no different. While Shea noted that the overall planning for the event has gone well, and is “right on track,” with some minor things to wrap up, there is one area of concern: finding people to fill volunteer shifts. 


According to Shea, the festival currently needs 76 volunteer shifts filled as of this writing, to help cover the entire 170 volunteer shifts it takes to make the weekend run smoothly. Anyone willing to volunteer is encouraged to visit elkadersweetcorndays.net, where there is a link allowing you to sign up for a shift. 


There has also been an increase in how much each committee member takes on in terms of responsibility, something Shea said has made the workload more manageable for herself and fellow committee member Mackenzie Gamm. Specifically, Shea mentioned Joe Lawson from FreedomBank stepping into the role of treasurer as being helpful and alleviating some of the pressure. 


“Every person that helps us is incredibly awesome. We have an ongoing document of ideas, and while all of them are awesome, we’re limited by time and volunteers to be able to bring them all to life,” Shea said. 


One area that could’ve been a challenge but turned out a success was in raising funds, which surpassed last year’s total by exactly $273. 


“Local businesses and community members have once again been wonderful and supported SCD financially,” Shea said. 


These donations are vital, especially when it comes to the ever-important fireworks show. The fireworks donation jars were emblematic of the generosity of the community, as the final tally easily surpassed last year’s total, and given the fact the 21-minute light show increased in cost by $1,000, the “wonderful” support and “great response” from the community proved essential in maintaining the integrity of the show. 


Shea noted this wasn’t the only place where costs have gone up, but she made a point to amplify the fact Sweet Corn Days doesn’t exist to make a profit, so the cost to attend has not risen. 


“As we strive to make this a celebration of small town, summer fun for everyone to enjoy, we have kept all costs the same. Our goal is not to make a profit, but to simply be able to pay the bills and keep SCD cost friendly for families and everyone,” Shea said. 


When it comes to events, SCD officially kicks off Thursday night, July 28, with the annual ice cream social hosted by Main Street Elkader. It also includes two new events. First is the chalk the walk being held in Founder’s Park, which Shea described as a “free fun event for kids or artists to help create a fun atmosphere in the park, or for businesses to advertise any specials they may have or their hours for the weekend.” The second is a partnership with Elkader Cinema for the first ever movie in the park, which will feature the 2021 animated film “Tom & Jerry” at 9 p.m. 


“We see this as the beginning of a new tradition for Elkader. Picture the park filled with blankets covering the grass, lawn chairs and families, couples and kids laughing and being together getting ready for the movie to start. And shortly after the movie starting, the little ones falling asleep on a blanket. There will be popcorn and beverages for sale as well,” Shea said. 


The festival really becomes “family friendly night,” as Shea said, on Friday, starting with the crowning of the royalty and announcement of the grand marshals. There will also be a carnival in Founders’ Park with kids rides and amusements, live music featuring the JayR Brink Band and, of course, the fireworks extravaganza.


As the festival hits the weekend, especially Saturday, the core events start taking place, like the Shed Your Threads walk/run, softball tournament, “bend and booze” hour of beginners yoga, Pedretti’s donut hole eating contest, a bags tournament, kiddie tractor pull and parade at 2 p.m. 


This year also features a few new events to the Saturday lineup, as well as some changes to previous ones. The new events include the kid friendly and free sand bottle art craft on the lawn of the Elkader Library in the morning, then teen sand volleyball, which is also free, and will take place in the evening at the city park. 

“This will be an informal hang out for teens to play volleyball, listen to good music and just hang out. Food and drinks will be available for purchase at the outside window of the swimming pool concession stand,” Shea explained. 

The teen volleyball is also part of this year’s initiative to focus on teens and creating more spaces and events for them, which led to the creation of a dedicated teen hangout area in the park, in addition to the specific events catering to them. 

As for the changes to existing events, the moonlight swim for ages 8 and over will be capped at 125 kids. Last year’s record turnout prompted some concern over safety, which necessitated limiting the crowd. 


The other event undergoing some modifications is the free car, truck and jeep show and shine in the FreedomBank parking lot. After listening to feedback about last year’s show, the SCD committee decided this year would be a true show and shine, with no registration and no trophies, just “simply a place for vehicle enthusiasts to gather, show off their pride and joy and enjoy conversation and other peoples’ vehicles,” said Shea.


Saturday evening wraps up with Cornstock, featuring adult corn games in Founders’ Park, a beer tent and live music by the Schmidt Brothers. 


When it comes to vendors, the list includes Sugar Box Treats, the Masonic Lodge selling burgers and brats and the fire department serving up sweet corn and chicken halves on Saturday afternoon. This year will also feature ice cream provided by Scoop There It Is, “who will keep us cool with ice cream and floats throughout the weekend,” Shea said. 


The summer festival comes to close Sunday morning, with the Whistlin’ Bit Saddle Club Fun Show at 10 a.m., at the Elkader Horse Arena. 


While it would be easy to get lost in the economics of SCD, and the impact it has, it should be reiterated that SCD does not exist to make a profit—at least not for itself. Obviously, there is some expectation that a positive financial impact will occur for the local establishments, but that’s not really why Shea does it. It’s more personal, beyond dollars and cents. For Shea, it really is about that sense of community, and above all else, family. 


“For me, now having two little boys, I see the smiles on their faces and how excited they are. I want them to love Elkader so much that someday they choose to call this place home,” Shea said. 


SCD could be the event or memory that makes this happen because it showcases everything Elkader has to offer, especially the people, who “have so much pride and positive attitudes.”  

“This is why families move here and stay, and I want to do everything I can to create that for my children and their friends and our friends,” Shea added. “That is what this is all about.”

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