Smile Politely

Ask Politely #30

In Champaign-Urbana, we have myriad options when it comes to gatherings. From annual parties like Taste of Champaign and the County Fair, to bi-annual throwdowns like Wall2Wall Guitar Festival, to art festivals like Boneyard and the Downtown Festival of the Arts, we are blessed with more than a few options.

Now, as the Sweetcorn Festival takes its 33rd lap around downtown Urbana this weekend, we couldn’t help but ask ourselves: just how good of a festival is it?

Certainly, and especially for those who grew up here, there is a nostalgia that surrounds it: a new school year has arrived and the sounds of marching bands on the gridiron are not far off. The local economy is about to turn for the better and, despite the fact that it is widely known that central Illinois grows feed corn almost exclusively, there is nothing quite like the taste of an ear of patented Illini Super Sweet corn, drenched in butter and lightly salted.

But up until this year, prices for an ear at the festival ballooned to the point of a head shaking walk to Schnucks. At $1 a pop, many folks simply decided to forgo the annual corn-gorge and elect to maybe sample an ear or two with a friend. In years past, the cost went from absolutely free to $.25 to $.50 and up.

To combat the trend, newly hired Urbana Business Alliance director Susan Toalson teamed up with Wal-Mart, the company who provides the corn (we know, we know — it kinda sucks that they are involved) to offer festival-goers a 2-for-1 deal this year. One ticket (that costs $1) will get you two ears of the sweet and salty central Illinois tradition. Not bad, right? We thought so.

And, while the last few years saw more local rock bands performing alongside classic artists like The Family Stone and Parliament, this year’s lineup leaves more than a little to be desired: Saturday headliner Foghat, a band which actually performs with just one of its original members — the drummer, Roger Earl — has inspired more than a few commenters on local websites to express a little disdain while scratching their heads.

But the Sweetcorn Festival attracts bigger crowds than any other festival in C-U every year — and that makes a strong statement. They must be doing something right.

So, let’s have it, students and denizens alike: how does the Sweetcorn Festival stack up against the others?

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