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Finding Minnesota: Corn Capital Days

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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OLIVIA, Minn. (WCCO) — By this time, there should be some Minnesota sweet corn for sale at the roadside stands, but a cool, wet spring caused much of this year’s crop to be a little late.

That won’t put a stop, though, to one of the corniest celebrations in the world, in Renville County.

Corn Capital Days will get under way in less than two weeks in Olivia — the official Corn Capital of Minnesota.

“In Olivia, everything is about the corn,” said Betsy Hennen, as she stood near a 25-foot corn cob statue at the edge of town.

“Three years ago, my daughter got married,” she said, “and instead of throwing rice or bird seed, they threw corn afterwards. And then all the wedding party came out here and had their picture taken underneath the corn cob.”

The town celebrates its corn crop at the end of July with a festival that promises some of the freshest free sweet corn, straight from the fields and into the water.

“We have a whole team of guys shucking and cooking and it gets eaten right away,” said Mayor Sue Hilgert.

That is, if there’s anything available. Jake Schmoll, whose family is in charge of supplying the corn for the big community feed, said this year’s planting came two weeks late.

“We are kind of under pressure,” he said. “It’s going to be the first corn we have ready if we do, and we’re really hoping we do.”

Olivia has the title of Corn Capital because no place in the world has as many seed research and processing companies.

“I like to think of Olivia as the Silicon Valley of corn research,” said Mayor Hilgert.

It’s where hybrid seed corn production began, and there are now 15 people with PhDs in agronomy there, doing groundbreaking research.

For one weekend during this busy season, though, the focus is on fun.

And the motto for this year’s festival: “What happens in the corn field, stays in the corn field.”

Corn Capital Days activities include dances, a parade and a competition known as the Cornlympics.

The free corn feed is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 30.

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