Share this article

print logo

48th Corn Festival begins today

First there was too much rain.

Then came the drought.

It's been a challenging year for farmers, and Eden growers are no different.

But despite the weather, Eden farmers guarantee there will be plenty of fresh, sweet corn for the Eden Corn Festival, which starts at 5 p.m. today and runs through Sunday.

"They should see some of Eden's finest," said Bill Zittel of Amos Zittel & Sons. "Nobody at the corn festival will know it's been a challenge."

The Zittels pride themselves on planting corn in the fields under plastic sheets by the end of March. That's the first corn that kicks off the season at roadside stands and markets by the end of June.

But not this year. Because of all the rain, the seed didn't get in the ground until the third week in April. Much of it didn't germinate properly because seeds were sitting in water.

Then there were six to seven weeks of little or no rain.

"What did come up, you had to really, really pound the water on," Zittel said, adding that the yield is down 20 to 30 percent.

And the cost of producing fresh produce has gone up, with the increase in fuel and other costs combined with the weather.

Weather was on everyone's mind Wednesday afternoon, as showers predicted for the morning finally came in a steady rain.

At the Corn Festival grounds off Route 62 in Eden, vendors were busy setting up booths, ignoring the rain.

This is the 48th year for the festival, which started as a way for local groups to raise money. Local firefighters, whose ranks include a number of farmers, sell curly fries and hot corn at two stands; Eden United Methodist Church offers corn chowder, ribs and other favorites; and the Eden Chamber of Commerce sells chicken barbecue.

"The festival benefits about 15 to 20 local organizations," said Jeff Winter, festival president.

While the four-day event attracts more than 100,000 people, it retains a hometown atmosphere.

There is a full lineup of local baseball and softball games today and Friday, a "hometown pet show" at 5 p.m. today, Corn Festival queen pageant Saturday, an agricultural community showcase, and the annual parade down Main Street (Route 62) at noon Sunday.

And the festival would not be complete without the corn eating contests Saturday afternoon.