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Mountain of maize at St. Jude

Volunteers prepare 25,000 ears for annual Sweet Corn Festival

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The St. Jude Sweet Corn Festival lasts until 7 p.m. Sunday, but don’t get there too late — they might be sold out of corn.

That’s despite preparing 25,000 ears for the 41st annual festival, which kicks off Friday. Festival chairman Mike Graeve said area residents’ appetite for Iowa’s quintessential seasonal treat is greater than even this massive haul of corn can keep up with.

“We’re normally sold out by 3 p.m. on Sunday,” he said.

For the last five years, corn has been grown specifically for the festival by Blake Kerns, who farms about 60 acres near Hazleton in Buchanan County. Three of those acres are set aside for St. Jude’s, which provides a small army of volunteers to prepare the corn. They started shucking the ears Thursday morning and finished up midafternoon.

In the past, church parishioners took bags of corn home to prepare, but these days the sweet corn feast is cooked in propane-powered boilers right on festival grounds. Each ear is then dipped in hot, melted butter — they go through 45 gallons of the stuff — before being served to eager festival goers.

“This whole thing is a community event,” Graeve said. “That’s what we want to promote — we want to share our St. Jude’s community with the rest of the community. We as a whole parish pull together to make this happen.”

Along with sweet corn, the festival features carnival games and rides, live music and countless pies, brats, funnel cakes and other treats, along with other activities.

Here’s everything you need to know before heading out:

l What — 41st annual St. Jude Sweet Corn Festival

l Where — St. Jude’s Church, 50 Edgewood Road NW, Cedar Rapids

l When — 5-11:30 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Opening ceremonies, featuring a presentation of the American flag by the color guard and singing of the national anthem by Stephanie Keiper takes place at 5 p.m. Friday.

l Cost — Entrance is free; corn is 50 cents an ear. Admission to the beverage tent is $3.

l Parking — Free shuttles are to run from the old west-side Kmart parking lot, 2727 16th Ave. SW from 5-10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Handicap parking is available off First Avenue.

l Security — No backpacks are allowed on festival grounds. All other bags are to be checked before entry.

l Beverage tent — A beverage tent for those age 21 and older is open from 5-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, with live music daily.

l Music — The following acts are scheduled to play in the beverage tent: Gimikk, 6-10 p.m. Friday; Two Buck Chuck, 1-5 p.m. Saturday; Crazy Delicious, 6-10 p.m. Saturday; Brass Transit Authority, noon to 3 p.m. Sunday; and Matthew Kane and the Band Greenbrier, 4-7 p.m. Sunday. There is also a free live entertainment stage outside the beverage tent.

l Entertainment — A bags tournament, bingo and the 33rd annual Kernels 5K and 10K races are planned as part of the festival. The races take place beginning at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Xavier High School, 6300 42nd St. NE, Cedar Rapids. For information and registration, call Julie at (319) 550-4980.

l Midway carnival — Ride tickets cost $1 each and most rides take 1-3 tickets.

l Food — In addition to buttered sweet corn, a variety of food is available for purchase including pizza, brats, burgers, funnel cakes, pie and ice cream.

l Details — judesweetcornfest.com

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