The annual Sweet Corn Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary this summer as it overtakes the streets of downtown Mendota, a community of just under 7,300 that’s located 2 hours southwest of Chicago.
“We close off roughly eight blocks of downtown,” says Shelby Weide, president and CEO of the Mendota Area Chamber of Commerce and the event’s chief organizer. “The street department does a phenomenal job getting the streets ready to roll. And we’ll get between 55,000 to 60,000 people for the weekend.”
This year’s celebration, set for Aug. 11-14, 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.
At any age, the Sweet Corn Festival has been all about creating memories. And, as evidenced by the thousands of people who attend the event every summer, the festival is not just for Mendota natives.
“We draw people from the Chicago area, Rockford, Bloomington, Ill., Normal, Ill., all over,” Weide says. “We’re one of the biggest harvest festivals in the area, and if you haven’t been here, it’s a great weekend to come.”
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. The other big highlight of Sunday is the parade, which features local performers, floats, and antique and classic vehicles.
The Sweet Corn Festival opens at 6 p.m. on Aug. 11. The Carnival Midway is open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, noon-10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon-6 p.m. on Sunday. People can purchase a wristband for unlimited rides. There are also daily passes available, and there’s a “mega pass” that covers the whole weekend. Those can be purchased online or at the Chamber of Commerce office. They’ll also be available throughout the weekend at the festival.
The festival website, sweetcornfestival.com, lists several hotels and motels, as well as campground information, for those planning an extended stay. ❚