Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sun Prairie Corn Festival

I hate corn.

As an educated Foodie, I can talk your ears off for hours about the destructive effects of Monoculture and evils of High Fructose Corn Syrup. I can expound on the health and economic effects of cheap, unhealthy Corn Fed, feed-lot, mass-produced cattle that makes up 98% of the beef we consume and is a leading contributor to our countries unhealthy diet.

It is, however, not Corn's fault that it has been misused so. For whatever our current tribulations, many good people have made good livings with Corn and in the City of Sun Prarie, Wisconsin they take a weekend every year to celebrate the joys of Corn. Sweet Corn to be exact, and while I may hate Corn for its many crimes, tasting bad is not one of them.

So this morning around noon, my Bride and I locked, loaded and headed out around the beltline to Sun Prairie, one of Madison's most popular little suburbs and probably the biggest. As the years have gone by, I've watched Madison sidle slowly up to Sun Prairie like a batch of spilled pancake batter creeping across the counter top. Once the Eastside stores made the salmon-like upstream LEAP across the interstate, it was only a matter of time before Sun Prairie was assimilated like a cheesecake buffet under the baleful gaze of a fat Borg. Right now I think one single, nervous cornfield stands between the two cities. Soon they will mate like a pair of raindrops and Sun Prairie, like Fitchburg and Monona, will loose some of it's identity.

But for today, Sun Prairie was out on display, freaks, geeks, soccer moms, Nascar dads and everyone else who isn't so neatly looped up by a demographic, all with the air of the usual convivial Wisconsin charm.

I love fairs. I love the idea of fairs. I loved our county and city fairs as a kid. I lived in a small enough town where, while I didn't know everyone, I could count on running into a number of peers. Parental supervision was lax (beer tent), mischief was in rich supply and there was an understanding amongst my peers that with a little co-operation, mischief levels could be exponentially increased with very little effort. The Carney's were fair game for cheats and tricks because we all knew damn well that they were trying to trick us. Use a cork gun to knock over a pack of cigarettes that the operator will not show us or turn around huh? Of course it's weighted and of course nobody will mind if one of us nips home, grabs their BB pistol and with the virtue of a little timing and coordination, we managed to strip the nice gentlemen of several worthless stuffed animals before he cottoned on.

Beer was snuck, tickets were stolen, gates were circumvented, rooftops were accessed and any number of bases were gotten from any number of girls in cornfields, backseats and underneath bleachers.

So I still get a little thrill from fairs of any kind these days. I found myself wishing that we went at night instead of mid-day. Once the sun went down, it's so much more fun.

The centerpiece of the Corn festival is, of course, The Corn. $1.50 an ear for you Wimpy McPussypants, 6 dollars for a boat of 8 or 9 ears, unshucked, steamed. I shudder at the idea of anyone eating 8 ears of corn by themselves (I also shudder at what that would do to their digestive tract), so my Bride and I split one. They must process a few thousand people through the line and therefore have something approaching a brigade system in place to cycle people though. First you meet the nice Corn Ladies who grab freshly steamed ears off of a conveyor belt and hand them out a boat at a time to hungry corn seekers.

Afterward, you spend a few seconds testing your pain thresholds while you attempt to shuck the steaming hot corn before crying like a little girl. Then it's off to the Butter Girls...

If there is anything about the Sun Prairie Corn Festival that deserves the attention of the nation (or at least that part of the nation that is in possession of a, shall we say, trumpet and skittles), it is this. I don't know the history behind this. I don't know if this has been done in other places, but I really do have to take my hat off to the undoubtedly male genius who had the idea of using all the cute, female, high-school seniors to perform the ever so efficient and convenient act of seasoning your delicious cob of sweet corn by rubbing it around in a tray full of butter.

I could write fifty pages a day for the rest of my life, and not cover all the innuendo you could derive from just... that... picture. I leave the final word on the subject to my Bride, who, settled at our picnic table afterward, thanked me for not being "That Guy."

"What do you mean?" I asked, bewildered.

She replied, "Thank you for not going up there and saying something like, 'Hey Baby, ya wanna lube my cob?'"

The fair offers up a lot of local, currently fashionable crafty booths for your shopping pleasure, the usual retinue of carnival rides and food alongside the food offerings by local civic and fraternal groups. After stuffing ourselves on corn, we both wound up indulging in a post-corn snack, corn-dog for me (it's an addiction) and fried cheese for my Bride. We also treated ourselves to some Real Fruit Smoothies. Honestly, we didn't need the fair food to make it a fun day and I left wondering what kind of freaks go to a Corn Festival and DON'T eat corn.

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