That roughly 10-foot ear of corn that lights up in town isn’t the result of a really good harvest or new growth products — It’s a reminder that the 40th annual South Vienna Corn Festival is coming.
This landmark year will be celebrated Friday, Sept. 9, through Sunday, Sept. 11, downtown with around 100 craft and other vendors, 35 food vendors offering the event’s signature pork chops, corn on the cob, BLT sandwiches and other foods, and a host of rides, games and other attractions.
It began with just one small entertainment tent, a few rides for children, a handful of food vendors and a small parade.
This weekend’s event will draw an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 people if the weather is good, according to Toni Keller, festival co-chairwoman and South Vienna’s mayor.
“People still show up if it rains. It’s the excitement of our community,” said Keller, who has been involved with all of the previous Corn Festivals in some capacity.
A turning point came around 15 years ago, with the signature foods being the main reason they return, and the festival committee has stayed dedicated to improving each year, Keller said.
Among this year’s highlights will be recognition in the annual parade of South Vienna residents of 40 years or more, led by Grand Marshal Junior Windle, who has lived in the village 70 years, at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Others can challenge themselves or their friends on a mechanical bull, available for the first time.
Other special events will be a corn bake-off at 11 a.m. Saturday at South Vienna Elementary School, worship services at 10:30 a.m. Sunday under the big tent and a kiddie tractor pull at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Live music will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
Several rides will be available and pre-sale tickets will be in South Vienna at the market, town hall and school and at Shoemaker’s in South Charleston.
With the celebration of 40 years comes a bittersweet ending to a festival mainstay. The Corn Festival Queen Contest, the annual Thursday kickoff to the event, will have its final run in 2016.
Nine Northeastern senior girls will compete one last time at 8 p.m. Thursday at South Vienna Elementary School. Keller, who chairs the Queen Contest, said it will be replaced by a scholarship fund award for a graduating Northeastern senior boy and girl starting in 2017.
But as long as there’s a dedicated festival committee and community backing it, Keller said the Corn Festival can look forward to several more years.