Scheduled for Aug. 11-14, the annual Sweet Corn Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary this summer as it overtakes the streets of downtown Mendota, Ill., a community of just under 7,300 that’s located 2 hours southwest of Chicago.
The event features carnival rides and food, vendors, a flea market, a beer garden, a craft show, a queen pageant, musical entertainment, a parade and the famous free corn boil.
It’s a homecoming weekend for many former Mendota residents, but as evidenced by the thousands of people who attend every year, the appeal is widespread.
“We draw people from the Chicago area, Rockford, Bloomington, Ill., Normal, Ill., all over,” says Shelby Weide, president and CEO of the Mendota Area Chamber of Commerce and the event’s chief organizer.
The biggest draw of the weekend is in the name: sweet corn. There are vendors throughout the weekend who sell it, but on Sunday, the festival offers all the sweet corn you can eat for free.
There’s also a Sunday parade and a carnival midway with rides including the flying teacups, a large slide, the Dragon Wagon and a fun house. Food vendors offer everything from iconic fair food (corn dogs, burgers and pizza) to ethnic dishes (egg rolls, Italian sausage and gyros).
The crafters market and flea market on Saturday and Sunday feature baby items, sewn items and decor, along with collectibles, books and antiques.
The Sweet Corn Queen pageant takes place on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. This year, to honor the 75th anniversary of the festival, all past queens have been invited back.
“When you were a kid growing up in Mendota, the Sweet Corn Festival was like Christmas.” says Paulette Kraus, a Florida resident who flies back to her hometown every summer. “You looked forward to it. You’d get with your neighborhood friends and head downtown and go on the rides and get your taffy and your corn dogs and carny food.”
Mendota Sweet Corn Festival runs Aug. 11-14 in downtown Mendota, Ill. For info, visit sweetcornfestival.com.