Corn festival in Olathe back on track
As sure as Olathe is known for growing oodles of scrumptious sweet corn, the small town will, after all, host its annual Olathe Sweet Corn Festival on Aug. 3.
In mid-June, faced with the prospect of either paying for basic town services or funding the festival, town trustees reluctantly opted to cancel this year’s event.
However, after news spread that the event would get the ax, a groundswell of local support surfaced for the 21-year-old annual event.
“A group of citizens that didn’t want it to go away decided to save it for this year,” Sweet Corn Festival organizer Ruth Dodge said. “We’re thrilled.”
In its heyday, the festival marked by free ears of corn for all and sloppy corn-eating competitions lured up to 20,000 people during multi-day events. Huge country acts such as Travis Tritt, LeAnn Rimes and Joe Diffie ventured off the beaten path to perform in Olathe, a community of about 1,800 people tucked in farmland between Montrose and Delta on U.S. Highway 50.
But times have changed and the town can’t risk hosting the event that sometimes loses money. Olathe fronted $16,000 to host the event last year.
Instead of trying to be everything to everybody, this year’s festival will be a modest event, aptly dubbed “Back to our Roots.” The one-day affair will be replete with family games, and, of course, the beloved corn-eating competition and all-you-can-eat ears of corn. Folks are encouraged to share their best corny jokes, sing karaoke and participate in a corn relay race.
Plenty of Western Slope musicians and food and art vendors will populate the grounds, said Todd Queen, chairman of organizing the festival.
“There’s a lot of people that really wanted to play at the festival and be a part of this,” he said.
Queen said a number of local businesses and individuals came forward to donate money or in-kind services upon learning the festival might go under.
Organizers want to attract between 4,000 and 5,000 people this year and hope that reasonable ticket prices encourage attendance. Tickets at the gate are $5 for adults and $3 for children ages 2-13. Children under 2 are free. Olathe’s Community Park grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Since organizers announced Friday the festival is on again this year, Olathe’s town hall has been receiving a number of phone calls from relieved residents, Dodge said.
“We canceled it and had it back on and canceled it again,” she said of this year’s event. “People every time have said we don’t want it to go away. We’re just bringing it back to an old-fashioned fun day.”
Volunteers still are needed to help. To donate your time, call town hall at 323-5601.