Food for the Iowan Soul

Who needs a beach? Children play in a sandbox full of corn at last year’s Sweet Corn Days in Elkader. Photo: courtesy of Sweet Corn Days.

By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

All kinds of Iowans celebrate all kinds of traditions, but none is more quintessentially Iowan than the small-town sweet corn festival. It’s our heart and soul and stomach.

During Elkader’s Sweet Corn Days, July 28-31, you can actually sit in a sandbox full of (field) corn before feasting on the good stuff, for free, at Founders’ Park. In between, watch the parade, hail the Sweet Corn Royalty, enjoy the carnival, listen to live music, swim at the pool, and compete in the golf, softball or doughnut-hole eating tournaments.

“Just soak in the moment and enjoy yourself,” volunteer organizer Danielle Shea says. “You’ll feel welcomed as soon as you arrive, and when you leave, you’ll think, ‘I really love Elkader. Let’s come back.’”

In Adel, the Sweet Corn Festival on Aug. 13 coincides with the city’s 175th anniversary, so expect even more revelry than usual—a historical exhibit, parade, car show, volleyball tournament, street party and, of course, free sweet corn until it’s gone.

Both Elkader and Adel are part of designated Iowa Great Place regions, with authentic cultural events year-round. Elkader also boasts a popular annual arts festival, Art in the Park, Aug. 20.  

So the locals know the answer to a recent comment on the Adel festival’s Facebook page: “Any way to order online?”

Nope. You just gotta go.

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