DeKALB – When John Rey began attending Corn Fest in the 1970s, it wasn’t much more than a corn boil, and Rey wasn’t much more than a regular DeKalb resident.
A lot has changed since then. Now Rey, the mayor, is pleased to welcome a much larger and very different Corn Fest back to downtown DeKalb.
The 2013 Corn Fest brings with it a new location, a new weekend and a slew of new activities for families from DeKalb and around the area. After five years spent at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, the festival of music, food, beverages and fun is setting up in downtown DeKalb, where it spent the previous 30 years.
“I’m very excited to see Corn Fest returning to downtown,” Rey said. “I think it will return the focus to the community that it traditionally has represented. I’ve had a number of people comment that they had not attended Corn Fest since it moved to the airport.”
This year’s festival won’t be an exact replica of downtown festivals from the past. Festival Chairwoman Lisa Angel said changes include more parking and reworked entrances.
“Our biggest problem when it was downtown was finding parking,” Angel said. “We should have 400 parking spaces available downtown that we didn’t have before, as well as side streets and residential areas.”
Angel works for Shaw Media, which publishes the Daily Chronicle.
Another problem from downtown Corn Fests past was that the carnival’s location south of the railroad tracks raised safety concerns. This year it will be located completely north of Locust Street and near the rest of the festival.
The main stage area also has been moved from Van Buer Plaza to the intersection of Second and Locust streets, where the beer garden previously was. It will have entrances on each street, but will offer beer in a more family-friendly atmosphere.
At least one downtown business owner is glad about that move.
“They used to put the entertainment here, and it would blare. You couldn’t even take an order,” said Mary Wilson, owner of Hillside Restaurant. “Now it’s on Locust [Street] facing east, so that’ll be great. It may be a better experience, so we’re being optimistic and positive about it.”
For the elderly and the disabled, TransVAC is offering free transportation to and from Corn Fest that can be arranged by calling 815-758-6641 by 4 p.m. Friday. Also, the Edward Hines Jr. Veterans Affairs Hospital will be on hand Saturday to provide free on-site medical checkups to all veterans who bring their separation papers.
At 8:30 p.m. Saturday agriculture company DeKalb Genetics Corp. will present a laser show at the main stage for the unveiling of their new logo.
But not everything is different. There still will be Kid Fest, which will take place behind the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, and the community stage will still provide family entertainment.
The steam-powered corn boil that started it all will remain unchanged. About 24,000 ears of corn donated by Del Monte Foods will be distributed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the corner of Fourth Street and Lincoln Highway.
“People always ask, ‘Why is this corn so different?’ ” Angel said. “Well, Del Monte actually picks it the day before, so you’re actually having corn that was in a field a little over 24 hours ago. Many of us don’t get to experience that.”
Corn Fest details
• Carnival throughout the festival. Wristbands will be available for $22 from 3 to 11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, and for $30 all day Sunday.
• Kid Fest throughout the festival with inflatable bounce houses and obstacle courses, a dunk tank and a hands-on science station
• Beer garden 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. $5 admission, children younger than 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
• Vintage auto show from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday
• Bags tournament 11 a.m. Saturday. $30 a team to play.
• Free corn boil 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, or while corn lasts
• Art Fest for kids noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Kids Fest area
• Bike rally begins at 8 a.m. Sunday at Lions Park
• Live music on the sound stage from 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
• More information: www.cornfest.com