Sweetcorn Festival History
The National Sweetcorn Festival originated in 1941 through an adaptation
of the original Hoopeston Sweetcorn Festival. The first festival, in
1938, was organized by city businessmen to promote business in Hoopeston
and to celebrate the yearly harvest of sweetcorn.
The Festival was discontinued during World War II and later reorganized under the sponsorship of the Hoopeston Jaycees.
With the coming of Labor Day weekend, Hoopeston prepares to welcome the thousands of visitors expected to converge upon the Sweetcorn Capitol to witness the annual National Sweetcorn Festival.
Our Sweetcorn Festival is unique in that, besides the normal carnival, demolition derby, Grand Parade and other events, we cook approximately 50 tons of sweetcorn with an antique steam engine and distribute the corn FREE. All events take place at the McFerren Park, located at west Penn Street and IL Route 1.
As is common to most festivals in this area, a pageant was held to name a local girl, chosen by popular vote of the persons in attendance, to reign over the celebration. In 1939, local judges were responsible for selection of the Sweetcorn Queen.
In 1940, the canning and canning-related industries of Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Iowa, and Wisconsin were persuaded to send a contestant to Hoopeston to vie for the title. Since the festival and pageant now had persons in attendance from several states, the name "Hoopeston Sweetcorn Festival" was changed in 1941 to the "National Sweetcorn Festival" and "Miss Sweetcorn" became "National Sweetheart".
The Junior Chamber of Commerce assumed the sponsorship of the festival and pageant following World War II and has continued to the present. They followed the same format until 1952, when the Jaycees invited the 1st runners-up from their respective states' Miss America pageants. At the same time, judges from the Miss America circuit were invited to judge the pageant. The idea was to bring national recognition to the pageant, as well as provide a training pageant for girls who may wish to reenter their states' Miss America competition in future years. The same traditions and goals remain a vital part of the National Sweetheart Pageant today.
Eight contestants from our National Sweetheart Pageant have become Miss America. Pam Eldred, Miss America 1970; Rebecca King, Miss America 1974; Grace E. Ward, Miss America 1982; Debrah L. Turner, Miss America 1990; Carolyn Sapp, Miss America 1992; Leanza Cornett, Miss America 1993; Tara Dawn Holland, Miss America 1997 and Katie Marie Harman, Miss America 2002.