Olathe Sweet Corn, Olathe, CO

Make It Local! Sweet Corn Fuels Economy, Fun

Olathe Sweet Corn, Olathe, CO

Olathe Photographer Joseph Harold snapped this shot of last year’s sweet corn harvest. This years corn will arrive later thanks to wet weather.

 MONTROSE–(May 15)  The sweet corn variety that put Montrose County on the map, Olathe Sweet, will once again draw hungry crowds to Olathe and the entire region on Saturday, August 3.  However, though the Olathe Sweet Corn festival has become known over the years for featuring big, national acts along with the hot buttered ears, this year’s festival—the 22nd–will be smaller, fresher and more local.

“We’re getting back to our roots—that’s the theme for this year’s event,” festival organizer Bobbi Sale said. “It’s really a make or break year. We are focusing more on local food, local everything—and we will have fun, interactive games. So come on out!”

For locals, the Sweet Corn Festival is a chance to catch up with friends and neighbors, and have a great time. For visitors, the festival offers a small taste, not only of crisp, fresh, sweet local corn, but of the Western Colorado lifestyle that inspires travelers worldwide.

“We can share how we live in Olathe year-round with people who don’t,” Sale said. “And we’ll have an old-fashioned street dance, with Cabin Fever!”

All entertainment will in fact be local this year, she said, and everything will wind down before dark.

“This year’s festival will be scaled way back, no big sound and light system,” she said. “As the economy gets better, we can go back to what we were doing.”

And while the festival’s mainstay—the beloved Olathe Sweet Sweet Corn, should be plentiful by festival time, the harvest will be a little late this year, Olathe grower John Harold said.

“Along with the spring moisture we got cool weather,” Harold said. “It’s a pretty good trade-off-we have a lot of corn, and it should be ready about mid-July.”

Montrose is also the home of corn scientist Dave MacKenzie, whose popular “Mirai” corn

has attained a global following as the go-to “dessert” corn.   Now, MacKenzie has found an even sweeter corn—tentatively nicknamed “Brix 20,”– that contains between 19 and 20 percent sugar.

“The taste impact is huge,” MacKenzie said, adding, “Our corn is really moving overseas—we could become the dominant variety in the Ukraine.”

Here in Montrose, Mirai is not always easy to come by; although he has grown his own product and partnered in a roadside stand in years past, MacKenzie is now focused entirely on producing seeds for home gardeners and others.

“We’re growing seeds in Idaho right now, we’re growing some seeds in Montrose, and we’re looking to grow seeds in Turkey,” he said. “Weather has been so unpredictable in seed-growing areas that we have had to diversify.”

Here in Montrose, those who do not grow their own can just stop by the Lobby Grille at Montrose Memorial Hospital during sweet corn season for a taste of Mirai, MacKenzie said.

“(Chef) Mike Krull has it grown, and incorporates it into the locally-grown foods movement; he really makes it available,” MacKenzie said.

“This is the fourth year in a row we have used it,” said Krull, who has built what was once just a hospital cafeteria into a food-lover’s destination, rated among the top ten Montrose eateries on the Trip Advisor web site. “The quality is excellent; we use it raw, frozen and roasted.  We use it in corn bread, and in salads. Every year, we are excited to have it come in.”