The real winners must have been Sun Prairie’s squirrels. When 100,000 or so people descend on Angell Park, as they did for the 59th consecutive Sweet Corn Festival Saturday and Sunday, and they eat corn by the semitrailer-load flavored with butter by the ton, and they dribble kernels down their chins and onto the hillside, someone has to clean it up.
Enter the rodents.
They declined comment. The human benefactors did not.
“As long as it has the right amount of butter, it’s good,” said Mary Hood of Sun Prairie, who was balancing a box of 15 ears, steam rising and butter dripping. She came with her son, Cayson, who will turn 3 next month.
In nine years at the fest, Hood has learned a few things: Only salt the top layer of corn; bring an extra grocery bag, as the tote you’re given collapses if you stay too long; and, perhaps most importantly, never miss a fest.
There to butter the ears was Allyson Kroeze. The 19-year-old from Sun Prairie lives in Madison now, a student at Madison Area Technical College.
She worked her first fest this year, standing over a metallic vat holding 6 pounds of butter. People handed her ears. Kroeze sloshed them around in her vat and handed them back.
“We just keep refilling it,” she said. She had gone through 18 pounds of butter by 3 p.m. Sunday.
Bryan Yelk, 33, came for the 33rd consecutive year. His grandfather helped start the fest, so the story goes, and he doesn’t miss it. He brought his wife and three kids on Saturday and Sunday. Time has taught him a lesson, too: No more than five ears a day.
“Any more and I’ll get sick,” he said.
Still, he doesn’t hesitate when asked his favorite part of corn fest.
“The corn,” he said.
This year’s edition didn’t break records, said Ann Smith, executive director of the Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors and organizes the fest. On Saturday, organizers went through 36 tons of corn. On Sunday, they were hoping for 40 tons. It was bound to fall short of 2008 and its 84 tons, she said.
Mayor John Murray and City Council President Zach Weber stood ready as each new load of hot corn arrived via pickup, tipping a giant metal basket on its side to spill the ears onto the waiting shucking line. First on that line was Dane County Supervisor Bill Clausius.
The corn came from farms in Plainfield, Hancock and Coloma, Smith said. She wasn’t worried about this year’s crop being subpar due to drought, noting that some regions have suffered more, and some less, than others. Her opinion of the taste, while clearly biased, seemed widely shared.
“Oh it’s so good!” she said.