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The corniest and sweetest event in WNY almost didn't happen

The president of the Eden Corn Festival said volunteers have to husk and cook 50,000 ears of corn for the four-day event and police reserves get a 1,000 dozen more ready to sell to people who want to take Eden corn home.

Festival President Jeff Winter didn't have an immediate crowd estimate for the 57th Corn Festival, other than it was probably a quarter larger than the last festival in 2019.

"Record-setting crowd, I would say. I think everybody's anxious to get out of the house, get back out with the public," said Winter. "So far, people have been pretty well-behaved. The weather's been fantastic, couldn't ask for anything better there and it seems that the festival is really going well and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves and the vendors are talking about a record-setting year for them, too. So I think, we got really lucky for this year."

It's a big deal in Eden and has been over the decades. Winter said it reminds first-time visitors that the town remains a strong agricultural town, feeding Western New York and areas beyond.

"People as they are driving out, a lot of people that have never been to Eden go, 'Oh, my gosh. Oh, there are farms out here.' So as soon as you hit the Hamburg-Eden line, you're in farm country," he said. "We do have some nice residential areas, but when you get off the main strip, there's a lot of farmland."

2021 Eden Corn Festival

The president said it was by no means clear in January that the event would go forward, with all of the restrictions in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. But decisions were pushed along, hoping things would get better— and they did, quickly, after deciding as late as June 1 to go ahead.

"We could meet the social distancing and stuff, but along with that, we had to cancel some events. We had to cancel the parade. We canceled our auto show. And at that point in time, we had a lot of the bleachered events canceled because we couldn't have bleachers," he said. "So as time went on, all of a sudden, the middle of June things started opening up and then all of a sudden the 22nd of June, we were wide open."

The Corn Festival has become much more than an occasion to pile into the sweet corn, with a midway and concession stands and an organization that makes it work. Winter said it's a bigger event than some of Western New York's county fairs.

Twenty organizations benefit from the crowds, from the Boy Scouts to Eden school sports.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.