MARIETTA - Sunny skies and warm temperatures coaxed people out Saturday morning for the sixth annual Marietta Sweet Corn Festival.
The event began Friday and concluded Saturday at Muskingum Park in Marietta.
Afternoon rains on Saturday slowed things down a little, but organizers expected to serve about 4,000 ears of fresh, locally grown sweet corn, said Jessie Bigley, co-chair of the festival committee.
Brayden Whited, 8, of St. Marys, participates in the corn eating contest during the sixth annual Marietta Sweet Corn Festival on Saturday. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
Andrew Couch, 5, of Marietta, holds out his hands in excitement as he waits to participate in the corn eating contest. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
Rene Warren, co-owner of Cowboy Concessions, prepares thousands of ears of locally grown sweet corn to be cleaned and cooked at Muskingum Park on Saturday for the sixth annual Marietta Sweet Corn Festival. (Photo by Jolene Craig)
"It has been very busy this year," said Rene Warren, co-owner of Cowboy Concessions of Whipple, which volunteers its cooking services every year to the festival in order to allow the event committee to raise as much money as possible.
Warren said the roasted ears of fresh sweet corn were going fast and expected to out sell last year's 3,500 ears.
"We sold about 1,000 ears Friday evening, even with all of the rain," she said. "And by noon (Saturday) we had sold 800; people were coming in early to get corn - we sold our first ear at five after 10!
"That's an hour early," Warren added. "It has been fantastic."
The annual event is able to function as a free festival because of the generosity of Witten Farm Market, which donates all of the locally grown corn, and Cowboy Concessions, Bigley said.
"Because of them we are able to raise money to help two students go to college," she said.
The funds raised through the sale of the corn helps students interested in agriculture by giving two scholarships to those wanting to study agriculture, Bigley said.
"It's our mission to help the students in the FFA," she said.
This year's scholarship recipients were Marietta High graduate Ashley Wilson, who is attending Wilmington College in the animal science and veterinary program, and Fort Frye High graduate Courtney Huck who will pursue veterinary medicine with a focus on zoology at The Ohio State University.
"The kids and these scholarships are why we are here," Bigley said. "We hope to be able to continue to help these kids seek their education to help agriculture."
The festival was conceived as a way for the area's residents to celebrate the farming heritage of Marietta. The organization wanted to highlight Marietta's success in the area of farming and bring people together to celebrate that in a spirit of fun and community.
"Years ago a group of citizens got together and decided we wanted to try to have an old-fashioned festival to give families something fun to do that is low cost," Bigley said. "We also wanted to celebrate Marietta's farming heritage."
The Washington County area was once a "truck farming" location, she said, and crops including beans, potatoes, tomatoes and, of course, sweet corn were prominent in the Ohio River Valley.
"That heritage is very important because it is why we are here and we need to teach it and remember it," Bigley said.
Along with food were children's activities that included children of all ages participating in the corn-on-the-cob eating contest, face painting, crafts and a petting zoo during the two-day event.