The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

August 28, 2012

Sweetcorn Festival is ready to roll

HOOPESTON — The 69th National Sweetcorn Festival kicks off its five-day event Thursday at McFerren Park, on the corner of West Penn Street and Illinois Route 1.

There will be a bracelet night for children. Gate fees are $2, with children 7 years of age and younger free.

The traditional hot, buttered sweet corn will be served Saturday, Sunday and Monday. In the words of Abigail Foster, Miss Hoopeston 2012, “Hot corn ... that’s right, tons and tons! In fact, 22 tons of free, hot, buttered sweet corn cooked fresh right before your eyes by a classic steam engine!”

Something new this year during the festival is bracelet specials every day. Bracelet nights previously have been Thursday and Monday during the festival, but this year the Jaycees gave a little something extra special back. The fee will be $20 for an all-day bracelet.

Also on the agenda are the I & I Truck/Tractor Pull, which can be seen at 8 p.m. Friday; the car show sponsored by the River Valley Mopar Club at 9 a.m. Saturday; the Grand Parade at 10:30 a.m. Saturday downtown; and demolition derbies at 6 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday in the Annex.

Don’t forget the queen pageant. Forty queens, all runners-up in their respective state’s Miss America Pageants, will strut their stuff in preliminaries on Friday and Saturday for the honor of becoming the Sweetheart of the National Sweetcorn Festival on Sunday during the finals at 6:30 p.m. A reception follows the finals.

Hoopeston’s festival is considered a training ground for the Miss America Pageant. Nine former contestants went back to their states to win their state’s Miss America Pageant and later became Miss America. The nine Hoopeston contestants to become Miss America are Pam Eldred, 1970; Rebecca King, 1974; Grace E. Ward, 1982; Debrah L. Turner, 1990; Carolyn Sapp, 1992; Leanza Cornett, 1993; Tara Dawn Holland, 1997; Katie Marie Harman, 2002; and Caressa Cameron, Miss America 2011.

This year’s festival chairman is A. J. Garrison. The theme is “Still Fine After Sixty-nine.”

For information or to purchase tickets for the National Sweetheart Pageant or gate passes, contact the Hoopeston Chamber of Commerce, 301 W. Main St., or call 283-7873.

The Sweetcorn Festival was first organized in 1938 by Hoopeston’s business men to celebrate the end of harvest. According to the early history, the first Miss Sweetcorn was chosen by the residents who shopped in the stores. Several young ladies names were placed on ballots and as people shopped in the downtown businesses, shoppers marked the name of the young lady to be Miss Sweetcorn. In 1939, local judges were responsible for the selection of Miss Sweetcorn.

By 1940, businessmen in the canning and canning-related industries of Hoopeston invited canning industries from Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin to send a contestant to vie for the title. With this influx of out-of-state contestants, the name was changed in 1941 to the National Sweetcorn Festival and Miss Sweetcorn renamed the National Sweetheart.

During World War II, the festival and pageant were discontinued. The Jaycees sponsored the festival after World II, following the same format as before until 1952. It was at this time that the Jaycees invited the first runners-up of each state’s Miss America Pageant to participant in the National Sweetheart Pageant and judges from the Miss America Circuit to judge the pageant contestants.

The goal of the Jaycees was to “bring national recognition to the pageant, as well as provide a training pageant for girls who may wish to re-enter their states’ Miss America competition in future years.”

Starting in 2007, the Miss America circuit invited Miss Hoopeston to enter the Illinois State’s Miss America Pageant. Alexandra Hasbargen, Miss Hoopeston 2007, was the first to compete in the Illinois Miss America Pageant.

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