A tradition of fun, food and entertainment at Mendota’s 2019 Sweet Corn Fest

Picnic tables on Illinois Avenue provide a place for people to sit down and enjoy the many varieties of delicious food available at this year’s Sweet Corn Festival. (Reporter photo by Jennifer Sommer)

MENDOTA – Visitors to last weekend’s 72nd Annual Mendota Sweet Corn Festival found all of the familiar fun, food and entertainment they have come to expect. What they may not have known was that behind the scenes, there were two less familiar faces guiding this year’s festival.

Both Kate Fox, Mendota Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, and Shelby Weide, administrative assistant, were at the helm of the festival for the first time this year. After a long weekend in their new roles, on Monday morning both Fox and Weide felt that everything went pretty well. “It was a great experience,” Fox said. “Tiring but good.”

The festival kicked off again this year on Thursday with a Special Afternoon for Special Kids. The two-hour event, which is designed for children with special needs and their immediate family, was well received. During that time, rides are free for the kids and one family member. Fox was pleased with the turnout, noting that over 100 wristbands were given out this year. In addition, that afternoon the Chamber gave every participating child a ticket for a free corn dog and drink from the Lions Club.

The popular carnival, Windy City Amusements of St. Charles, returned to Mendota for the third year. The carnival featured 21 brightly lit rides and offered armband specials each day as well as Mega Passes, which allowed purchasers to have unlimited rides throughout the entire four days. Fox said about 550 Mega Passes were sold this year, adding, “It’s a great deal if you think about it.”

On Friday evening, the festival’s longstanding tradition of crowning a Sweet Corn Festival Queen took place. Chosen as the 2019 Sweet Corn Festival Queen was Abby Phalen, daughter of Tim and Jan Phalen. She was sponsored by the Mendota Quarterback Club.

This year’s attendants were Katherine Wohrley, daughter of Kevin and Jill Wohrley, and Gillian Sondgeroth, daughter of Eric and Tammy Sondgeroth. Wohrley was sponsored by Mendota Community Theater and Sondgeroth was sponsored by Rotary Club of Mendota.

Chosen as Miss Congeniality for 2019 was Allison Olczak, daughter of Justin and Shannon Olczak. She was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club.

On Saturday morning, it was time for the younger set to take the stage for the annual Mini King and Mini Queen Pageant. This year, 11 young contestants gathered on the main stage and answered questions from first time emcee Christin Atherton. Selected as the 2019 Mini Queen was Kennedy Mellott and Mini King was Landon Kent. Kennedy is the daughter of Matt and Brittney Mellott and Landon is the son of Tyler and Angela Kent.

Sunday afternoon’s grand parade, stepped off at 1 p.m. led by Roberta Friedlein, this year’s parade grand marshal. Friedlein, who retired last year after serving for 43 years as the Mendota Chamber’s administrative assistant, was selected as grand marshal in honor of her many years of service at the Chamber.

The 2019 parade winners included:

Best Use of Sweet Corn, Del Monte Foods.

In the Commercial Division, 1st – Del Monte Foods, 2nd – GES Sound Services, 3rd – Sullivan’s Foods.

In the Organization Division, 1st – Mendota High School Cheerleaders, 2nd – De Colores Dance Group, Mendota, 3rd - Amboy Depot Museum.

For Performance Units, 1st – Mendota High School Cheerleaders, 2nd – De Colores Dance Group, Mendota, 3rd – Mendota High School Band, and in Musical Units, 1st – Mendota High School Band.

In the Friendship Division, 1st – Village of Sublette.

In the Antique Farm Implement Division, 1st Chad Hamrick – 1953 Case SC-3, 2nd Paul Hamrick – 1969 Case 220 Lawn Tractor, in the Antique Vehicle Division, 1st Compton Fire Dept. – 1942 Ford Fire Truck, 2nd John Noble – 1930 Ford Model “A” Truck, 3rd John Kehoe – 1930 Model “A” Ford.

The Queen’s Trophy went to the Mendota Little League Jr. Girls and the Grand Marshal’s Trophy went to GES Sound/Generic Goodies.

Looking back on the four days of the 2019 festival, Fox said she encountered very few problems. Although the 50/50 sales were down a bit from last year, the pot was still grew to a hefty $41,444. The 50/50 drawing was held at the Chamber on Monday morning and Tammy Hill of Earlville was announced as the winner of the $20,722 prize. Second place winner, Francisco Ayala of Chicago received $1,000 and third place was T.J. Tieman of Ladd who got $500. Proceeds from the 50/50 are used to improve the community and the downtown area.

Although there was some rain Sunday morning, the rain stopped well before the parade was set to step off and didn’t cause a major impact. “Other than that, the weather was beautiful,” Fox noted.

As for the craft vendors, Weide said everyone seemed pleased with sales and they were thankful that the rain quit fairly early on Sunday and held off the rest of the day. “Most of them were pretty pleased about how the whole weekend went,” she said.

The food vendors also did a brisk business throughout the festival. Weide said she was looking forward to a slice of brick oven pizza on Sunday afternoon but the vendor was sold out by the time she got there. “He said he’ll know what to bring for next year, so that means they’re already planning on coming back,” she said.

As soon as the last ear of corn was served on Sunday, the clean up began. Fox said they had plenty of help and because of the many volunteers, clean up was done by 9:30 p.m. She also expressed her appreciation to all the sponsors, who make the festival possible due to their generous donations. “We couldn’t do it without them and we’re thankful for every person that puts money towards the festival,” she said.

Although Fox felt very prepared prior to the festival, she admitted it was an overwhelming weekend. “With every event you do, there are some things you have to readjust. Now that it’s done, I can begin to reevaluate for next year,” she said. “Nothing major but some things are going to be changing.”


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