See you at the 21st Olathe Sweet Corn Festival, the state’s second largest agricultural celebration, set for Aug. 3! Courtesy photo.

See you at the 21st Olathe Sweet Corn Festival, the state’s second largest agricultural celebration, set for Aug. 3! Courtesy photo.

By Caitlin Switzer

OLATHE—(July 16, 2013)  It’s the signature taste of summer, and the reason more than 16,000 people flock to the region every year. And thanks to the efforts of a committed group of local citizens headed by Montrose Community Foundation Executive Director and lifelong local resident Melanie Hall, the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival is back on for Aug. 3 in the Olathe Community Park.

“A lot of kudos go to Melanie,” said Olathe Corner Farmer John Harold, who holds the patent on the Olathe Sweet sweet corn variety. “She has acted as our fiscal agent, and we have already more than raised 75 percent of the funds we need, regardless of ticket sales. We may not have Nashville coming  this year, but it’s a go—we’re gonna put on a festival.”

Donations have poured in from throughout the region and from as far away as Denver, and though the City of Montrose has not made a contribution, the Grand Junction Community Foundation gave $1,000, he said.

“This is the second largest agricultural festival in the State of Colorado, after the State Fair,” Harold said.

“We have a great corn crop this year,” he added. “That water we got in April really cooled us down and made a huge difference. We are contracted with Kroger, and things are looking good.”

This year’s corn harvest is expected to be ready by July 18 or 19, he said.

When the Town of Olathe opted to cancel the venerable festival earlier this year, Hall and a group of 25 to 30 volunteers pulled together to make it happen.  Though longtime festival coordinator Bobbi Sale is not running things, the festival has found a capable coordinator in Ruth Dodge.

“We are back on, and we are sorry for the confusion,” Dodge said. “When the town first decided not to hold the festival, one of the concerns was that not only Olathe would lose out—this event brings a lot of revenue to Delta and Montrose.”

Expect the same great event, minus the big-name musical acts and nighttime fireworks, she said. Hours will be from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“We have a great lineup, with entertainment all day and games for kids and adults too,” Dodge said. “We will have our karaoke contest again, with finalists on stage in the afternoon. We will have lots of vendors, and arts and crafts—we want to keep things as close to past festivals as we can.”

Though Olathe’s year-round population as of 2011 was just 1,829, close to 16,000 visitors come to the festival each year, with 70 percent of those return visitors, according to the Olathe Corn Festival web site.

Among the world’s top corn scientists is Dave MacKenzie of Montrose, whose Mirai Sweet Corn variety is even sweeter than the region’s signature Olathe Sweet. MacKenzie said that he came to this area from the Midwest partly for the climate, and for the strong base of sweet corn growers.  For MacKenzie, who has been focused on growing test plots, the continued popularity of the Olathe Sweet Corn Festival mirrors the growing interest worldwide in Colorado-grown sweet corn.

“This festival is not for the corn industry, it’s not for the farmers,” MacKenzie said. “It is really for all of the towns around here.  “It has become something for the people! They keep coming back, because they enjoy it.”