The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

August 26, 2011

Sweet corn stylings

Hoopeston ready to serve ears

HOOPESTON — Free sweet corn and beauty queens are the main attractions each year for the annual five-day National Sweetcorn Festival and Sweetheart Pageant in McFerren Park.

The park is located at Illinois Route 1 and Penn Street.

The festival runs from Thursday through Sept. 5, with carnival rides, tractor pulls, demolition derbies, car shows, music, flea markets, a parade at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 3 and much more.

The most important offering of all, however, in addition to the pageant and the 50-tons of free sweet corn given away on Sept. 3-5, is the variety of food vendors located east of the Civic Center, tempting the taste buds with their wonderful smells wafting around the area.

“There really isn’t much new this year,” said Kevin Polson, festival chairman.

“On Friday evening, there has been a new class of trucks added to the truck pull in the annex.

“Due to the increased price of sweet corn, we have placed a ‘four ear limit per person, per visit,’ in the sweet corn line.”

Polson, an active duty member of the Air Force, is honoring all active duty and retired military personnel who bring and show their IDs by waiving their admission to  the park during the weekend. He did request military personnel have IDs readily available when entering the gate to save a backlog of traffic. Others entering the park will be charged a $2 fee, with ages 7 and younger free.

An extra bracelet night for children also has been added noon-10 p.m. Sept. 3 to coincide with Thursday and Sept. 4’s bracelet nights. Bracelet fees on those days will be $18 per child.

The Jaycees, as an added incentive to visitors, offer five-day passes for $5, which saves half of the cost of fees at the park entrances for five days. The passes can be purchased at Jerry’s IGA, The Chronicle, Global Fashions and Mr. B’s, all in Hoopeston.

The annual Sweetcorn Festival parade begins at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 3 at the Lorraine Theatre on East Main Street and continues down the street to the McFerren Park annex. An additional surprise for this year’s parade is a fly-over by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.

“We have been fortunate enough to have a fly-over during the grand parade by a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter,” Polson said. “The local (Buddy Egnew) VFW Post assisted with the coordination of the flight. Once the fly-over is complete, the helicopter will land in the vicinity of the midget football field.”

Miss Hoopeston 2011, Julie Kelnhofer, will serve as hostess for the National Sweetheart Pageant contestants during their week-long stay. Young women, first runners-up of state pageants, arrive early in the week of the festival to compete for the title of the National Miss Sweetheart in the National Sweetheart Pageant. This pageant is considered a stepping stone to the Miss America pageant.

Money raised during the Sweetcorn Festival provides funding for the Hoopeston Jaycees’ events throughout the year such as underprivileged children’s Christmas; high school post-prom; Easter egg hunt and coloring contest; The Fireman’s Ball; Miss Hoopeston; annual blood drives, spring and fall demolition derbies; and National Sweetcorn Festival and Sweetheart Pageant.

The Hoopeston Jaycees begin preparation for the next festival as soon as the previous one ends, and a new festival chairman is named. The chaotic mess behind the scenes, as new chairmen of committees volunteer and begin to work, turns into an event that rivals some of the best festivals around and gives a little bit of something for everyone, young and old.

“I was selected for festival chairman in November of 2010,” Polson said, “and I immediately started working, finding who wanted to chair which projects. Still being on active duty in the USAF, I had to rely heavily on the chapter to assist with this endeavor.”

Polson, in his first year as festival chairman, enlisted in the Air Force in 1988, marking his 23rd year on active duty this year. He is stationed in Francis E. Warren (FE Warren) Air Force Base, located in Cheyenne, Wyo. As a young man, he said he also was a Commercial-News paperboy in the area of McNeil Avenue.

For more information or to purchase five-day passes or National Sweetheart Pageant passes, contact the Jaycees at http://hoopeston

jaycees.org/; the Chamber of Commerce at 283-7873 or the city of Hoopeston at 283-5833. National Sweetheart Pageant reserved seats are $13 for Friday and Saturday; $18 Sunday; or for the three-night package is $35; general admission is $12 Friday and Saturday; $15 Sunday; or for a three-night package is $30.

Starting on Tuesday, according to Loni Gress, the passes and tickets can be purchased at the Civic Center.

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