No Corn Fest
Committee chooses to protect health, festival’s long-term finances
Like another domino falling in this summer of COVID- 19 cancellations, the 2020 Loyal Corn Festival was officially scrapped on Tuesday evening. The committee that organizes the late August events opted to safeguard not only the community’s health by not luring in large crowds, but its own financial stability, which could have been jeopardized if funds were expended this year and people stayed away.
Meeting Tuesday evening at the fire station, the committee voted unanimously to cancel all plans for the Aug. 27-30 weekend. With it go plans to celebrate the Loyal city’s 150th anniversary, as well as the usual popular attractions such as sweet corn, music, a large parade, and more.
With about 30 people in attendance -- most from one of the approximately nine organizations that financially support the festival -- the meeting lasted only 20 minutes and was prefaced by Committee Chairman Kim Schweiger reading correspondence from the Central Wisconsin State Fair in Marshfield -- which was also cancelled this week -- and the Wood County Health Department, which noted apparent spread of the coronavirus at the late June Auburndale Music Festival.
Schweiger said she and the committee are fully in favor of cancelling the 2020 Corn Fest in part for “not wanting this kind of publicity for our town.”
“The weight of having it is going to put a whole lot of people at risk,” Schweiger said. “I don’t want to be responsible.”
Holding Corn Fest in a summer when crowds might stay away from events for fear of catching the virus, and not spend the usual money they do, would be irresponsible, Schweiger added. The festival would have to pay out large sums of money for bands, food, etc., and the revenue might not come back to cover the costs.
“If we went forward with Corn Fest, we would lose a lot more this year than we ever would get back,” she said. “I don’t think it’s financially feasible to do it. It’s just gonna put us in a hole.”
The Corn Fest has a unique structure in that various organizations that run booths, food stands or certain events give a portion of the proceeds back to the overall organization for common costs such as insurance, advertising, etc. While nine supporting organizations last year paid $7,548 in to support the festival, they stand to lose a lot more since they only contribute 25 percent of what they earn. The Corn Fest is a major annual fundraiser for such groups as the Loyal Fire Department, the Loyal Area Historical Society, the Loyal Lions Club, and several others.
“I know this is not what the organizations want to hear,” Schweiger said after recommending a full cancellation this year. “I just think we’re putting ourselves in such harm’s way.”
To ease the financial sting of losing this year’s revenue, Schweiger said the committee has agreed to ask organizations for only 15 percent of their profits in 2021. “That would put thousands of dollars back into your pockets, not ours, because we’re OK yet this year,” she said.
The Corn Fest usually starts on a Thursday evening with a coronation of a new queen and Little Miss Loyal, and a community ecumenical church service. Friday night’s main draws are an annual concert by Boogie and the Yo-Yoz and the Loyal Mini-Rodders/Badger State Dirt Flingers mini-rod pull.
Spanky’s Run draws hundreds of runners/walkers on the Saturday morning of the weekend, and sweet corn serving starts at noon. More music and food and a truck pull highlight Saturday evening.
Sunday usually starts with a community breakfast in the park, a huge parade on Main Street in the afternoon, and more corn and events throughout the final day.
Dave Geier of the Loyal Fire Department said Boogie and the Yo-Yoz has already been booked for the 2021 Corn Fest.
Schweiger said she hopes the interest shown in this year’s festival since cancellation started being discussed will lead to more interest next year. It’s usually a small group that does all the planning work, and Schweiger said it would help the festival as a whole if more people became involved.
“I love seeing this large of a group together when we’re making this kind of decision,” she said. “I would love to see this kind of group when we’re planning Corn Fest.” It would be helpful to expand the event offerings in the future, Schweiger said, to give more people more reason to attend. That would be more likely to happen with more help.
“The bigger the groups, the more money we can make for everybody,” Schweiger said. “The longer we keep (people) there, the more money they spend.”
Committee member Dave Loos said the committee meets the second Monday evening of the month, beginning in February or March. Members of organizations or other volunteers are welcome to attend, but Loos said it’s important that decisions be made already by spring for scheduling needs.
“Having a meeting in June or July to decide all that is fruitless,” he said.
The committee also wants the community to know that help is needed throughout the Corn Fest weekend with various tasks, but it’s not expecting too much from anyone.
“Just give us a couple hours,” Loos said. “We’re not asking people to give up their whole weekend for Corn Fest.
Anyone who wishes to get involved with planning the 2021 festival can contact the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Hopefully we can get some young blood and get new people involved, too,” said Schweiger.