Smile Politely

The 40th Annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival

An army of volunteers handed out thousands of ears of corn this weekend at the Urbana Business Association’s 40th annual Urbana Sweetcorn Festival. Although there were a ton of fair food vendors, there were also a handful of local food places serving up a variety of bites.

The festival took place Friday night and all day Saturday. Tickets were required for food, drink, and kids activities. Tickets were $1 each.

Last weekend’s Taste of C-U may have deterred some local food vendors from participating, and this year’s batch seemed a little smaller than usual (but it may have actually been the same). Present and dishing out food were: Dancing Dog Eatery and Juicery; Dragon Fire Pizza; Lacy’s BBQ; Manolo’s; Piato Café; ROKs Tacos; The Pop Stop, Inc.; Siam Terrace. All other foodstuffs were generic outdoor fair food vendors (some of which were the same as those at Blues, Brews, BBQ).

Of course, the main event at the Sweetcorn Festival is/was/should be corn. The corn tent was busy, and photos from late Saturday night indicated excessively long lines for corn. For one ticket (one dollar), patrons could get down on some hot, steamy, buttered corn on the cob. And they did.

check out that butter!

What was a little disappointing though, was that the local food vendors didn’t celebrate corn at all. It’s a corn festival, people. Commit to the theme! It would have been nice to see a corn salad from Dancing Dog, creamed corn or cornbread from Lacy’s, or corn pizza from Dragon Fire. But not one local place featured corn in any way on their menu, and that was a missed opportunity. Nevertheless the food from the local spots was tasty. 

Lacy’s BBQ and Dancing Dog both had vendor tents in front of their restaurants. Lacy’s outdoor seating was at capacity. The smoker was next to the tent puffing and smoking and making delicious meats, which was understandably very enticing to many festival patrons.

Dancing Dog had more or less the same menu from last weekend’s Taste: some baked goods and some juice. Those baked goods were amazing, and looked amazing, too. People who were turned off by the vegan label should know that they were delicious because there was still plenty of fat and plenty of sugar in each of those items.

At Dancing Dog, I sampled the vegan vanilla lavender cake bite (1 ticket/dollar), which was a perfect little sweet bite.

Dragon Fire was dishing out ¼ pizza slices for three or four tickets. I had the cheese (3 tickets/dollars), and it was predictably good, and piping hot.

Siam Terrace’s menu was pretty straightforward, but I did a double take at the Thai jerk chicken (5 tickets/dollars). Served with rice, this lightly breaded chicken was doused in a slightly sweet and sour sauce. The jerk flavors I was promised when I inquired about it were nowhere to be tasted. However, it was still quite good, and I’d be happy to eat it again. Just don’t call it jerk chicken.

Although the festival name promises a celebration of Illinois’ greatest agricultural gift, on the food and drink front this was not the case. I’d love to see some vendors take advantage of the theme and run with it a little. It’s a shame when fair food vendors adhere more closely to the theme by serving corn dogs (overpriced, ridiculously phallic ones at that). So please, future food vendors, could you incorporate some corn next year?

On a more practical and logistical note, the food (and non food) vendors appeared to be a bit more streamlined. There was a little more breathing room among the food options, with local places spaced out all along Main Street. There seemed to be more patrons there, too. Perhaps the slightly cooler-than-normal temperatures brought people out. Regardless, people were enjoying their hot and buttery corn, and that is a celebration in and of itself.

For more information about the Urbana Sweetcorn Festival, check the festival’s Facebook page, or visit the Urbana Business Association website

All photos by Jessica Hammie.

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