Sweet! Darien festival celebrates corn
DARIEN — If you're a fan of sweet corn, you want to be at Darien's West Park on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8, Sept. 9 and Sept. 10, for the 57th annual Darien Cornfest.
The celebration includes live entertainment, a carnival, parade, fireworks, crafts sales, sports tournaments and, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, free sweet corn donated by Birds Eye, which has a plant in Darien.
The festival got its start in 1960 as a one-day event in October to raise money for a truck for the Darien Rescue Squad, said Darien resident Shirley Sisk.
The original event included a roast beef dinner, an auction, horse-drawn wagon rides, food stands and special deals from downtown Darien stores, according to newspaper accounts.
In the mid-1960s, a vegetable processing plant, then Libby Foods, was built in Darien, and eventually the festival earned its name and included its famous sweet corn giveaway.
The event is now sponsored by American Legion Post 450, the Darien Crossed Irons Fire Fighters Association, the Darien Community Club and the Darien Cornfest Committee.
Almost as old as Cornfest is its parade, drawing kids in costumes, marching bands, horses, fire trucks and floats.
Sisk, a former Cornfest parade marshal, remembers the year her children won a prize for their float entry depicting firemen putting out a burning house fire.
“They had an upside down cardboard box with cut-out windows as a house, paper flames and a bottle of water to spray,” Sisk remembered.
The parade today typically draws about 100 units, said Pattie Keyzer, who has coordinated the parade for the last 12 years.
“We've had the Lawn Chair Dads, a group out of Woodstock, Illinois. They're a drill team made up of a bunch of businessmen wearing boxer shorts and T-shirts, and they drill with lawn chairs. We've had the Wacky Wheeler, the Shriners in mini-jets and this year we have a gentleman who rides a motorcycle in a wheel,” Keyzer said. “We have thousands of people that watch the parade every year.
“There's a lot of community involvement, a lot of community support.”