Kramers reflect on 60 years of Sweet Corn Days

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to get property 'settings' of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in include() (line 24 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/templates/simpleads_ajax_call.tpl.php).

At this year’s event, Sweet Corn Days committee member Danielle Shea introduced founding members of the festival, Gerry and Sandy Kramer. 2023 marked the 60th anniversary of the event founding in 1963.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register


A fortuitous trip to Waukon in 1963 by Gerry Kramer and Ed Olson changed summer forever in Elkader, when they attended a festival known as “Corn Days.” At first, Kramer said they thought it was “kind of funny” and cracked a few jokes as they talked about it on the drive home.


The next morning, however, the humor was replaced by a different attitude, one that looked at the event and concluded “Let’s try that in Elkader,” Kramer said.


The two men took what they saw and learned, as well as the idea, and put it on the agenda at the next meeting of the local Jaycees chapter in Elkader. The Jaycees are a group with a history of leadership training, civic organization and community service projects, and this particular group was formed just a year earlier with a goal to raise money for community projects. 


After the meeting, which decided that holding a similar festival would be a good thing for Elkader, Sweet Corn Days was created. 


Unlike the multi-day festival it is today that takes up almost all of Founders’ Park, that first festival was a decidedly smaller affair. It consisted of a food stand stationed in what is now Mascara Park, while sweet corn was sold by the pharmacy. Heavy rainfall led to a memory Sandy Kramer has never forgotten and still laughs about today.


Sandy, who was there on day one setting things up, was handing out sweet corn when it started to rain heavily. While it rained, butter that was being poured over the sweet corn began running into the streets, making the pavement slick and slippery, causing falls and other mishaps.


“We had a lot of laughs,” Sandy said.


The festival eventually moved to the city park, and included a parade by the mid-1960s, with the high school band, tractors and old cars. Entertainment like Dr. Max & Mombo was added to keep people at the park once they got there.


The early success was all a “little surprising,” Sandy said, but they did it all with “plenty of help.”


When they weren’t planning for SCD, the Jaycees were involved in numerous other projects throughout the years until they disbanded in the late 1980s. That included cleaning up the river banks, area parks and Lover’s Leap, as well as donating money for the town ambulance and being involved in getting polio vaccines into town.


While those service endeavors are notable and praiseworthy, SCD remains the group’s lasting legacy. It’s endured changes in leadership, cancellations, expansion, Covid-19 and a transition from a one-day event with a food stand and sweet corn to a festival that is several days long with entertainment, carnival rides and contests that also includes the library, city park, golf course and horse arena.


It’s a testament to those who came before, the community effort and the commitment of the Jaycees in those early years. That was celebrated and acknowledged at this year’s festival, as current SCD committee member Danielle Shea spoke about the dedication of volunteers, the involvement of the community, and, of course, the Kramers, who were introduced to applause. The festival may have changed, as well as the faces, but they will always be an integral part of its existence.


When asked what it all meant during an interview, the Kramers became emotional. Sandy is overly impressed with how well SCD is doing and pleased it has continued for so long. So long, in fact, that everyone almost forgot it was the 60th annual festival, until the Kramers did some quick math the week before. 


While the Kramers are no longer involved in the planning process and haven’t been for some time, Sandy commented it’s still a “family tradition” to attend.


The triumph of the festival is intermixed with the sadness of time, as Sandy noted so many “lifetime friendships” were made, while wishing they could still be young and get together with those same friends and do what they used to. Set up the food stand, sell sweet corn and watch people skate on the rain and butter soaked road.


Gerry—looking back on his time with SCD and how it’s all changed—struggled to comment through the emotion. “It feels great,” he stated. 


Sandy added, “We’re happy to see it keep going and I’m pleased for Gerry.”


At the 60th presentation, when Shea asked for a comment, Gerry, humble in the spotlight and joined by Sandy, simply said, “Keep it going!”

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.4 (7 votes)