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Friday, 04 September 2015 14:04

In Darien, time is ripe for Cornfest

Written by  Edwin Scherzer
Roasted sweet corn is a festivalgoer’s favorite at Darien Cornfest, set for Friday through Sunday, Sept. 11 through Sept. 13, at West Park in Darien.  Go online to dariencornfest.com for details. Roasted sweet corn is a festivalgoer’s favorite at Darien Cornfest, set for Friday through Sunday, Sept. 11 through Sept. 13, at West Park in Darien. Go online to dariencornfest.com for details. File photo by Terry Mayer

WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- As summer days shorten, the cornfields around Walworth County start to lengthen. Row upon row of green sentinels silently stand watch, waiting to change color and welcome in fall. Anyone who is an avid corn on the cob fan can’t wait to roast one, two or more ears of the delectable treat featured at county fairs and backyard barbeques everywhere.

Folks in Walworth County know the real place to claim your own cob is at Darien Cornfest, set for Friday through Sunday, Sept. 11 through Sept. 13. The event has held a spot on the calendar for more than 50 years, somewhere between first frost and the second weekend in September.

What started as a fundraiser for the fire department has evolved into a three-day, community-supported mega event. There are Friday fireworks, tractor pulls, a parade, competitive tournaments, vendor fair, live music, bingo and more.

The softball tournament features teams from all over the state and Chicago. Tournament organizer Greg Nichols was happy to post, “The tournament is full and I have now started a waiting list.”

Originally held in downtown Darien, the event -- like the corn -- needed room to grow, so organizers moved to West Park.

In keeping with Cornfest custom, parade marshals have been selected who reflect the community. This year’s honorees are the Brickner brothers, Joe and Lenny.

Joe Brickner, 63, has been a fixture in downtown Darien since 1980 as owner and operator of Farmers Inn, a locals’ local tavern. He has donated his time and support to Cornfest over the years.

“My part of Cornfest has been sponsoring a ball team and other stuff, sponsoring the fireworks,” he said.

Younger brother Lenny, 62, is really close to the corn, working at the town’s grain elevator for nearly 30 years. He, too, has helped out with Cornfest every year for two decades. When pressed to describe his role on the Cornfest committee, he states that it’s pretty much all encompassing.

“My position is anything,” Lenny Brickner said. “I do help out with the parade a lot.”

When approached to be parade marshals, the brothers were reluctant to be in the spotlight. But like many other things in their lives, it was a mutual decision.

“I go to 99 percent of Cornfest meetings, and the committee told me, ‘Your brother, Joe, said he would do it if you would do it,’ and after talking to Joe I said, ‘Let’s just do it and get it out of our system,’” Lenny Brickner said.

Led by longtime volunteers such as the Brickner brothers, Cornfest is a labor for community for the dozens who give their time to the festival.

In addition to the fire department, the Darien Community Club, American Legion and other youth organizations benefit from the proceeds.

This year former Green Bay Packers standout Leroy Butler will be at Cornfest from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, to sign autographs and take pictures.

The event gets into full swing on Friday, Sept. 11, with the princess pageant at 6 p.m. and fireworks at dusk.

Saturday has something for just about everyone, from horseshoe and volleyball tournaments to tractor pulls, bingo and the Walworth County Cloggers.

Sunday’s big attraction is the parade downtown, live auction and raffle to close out the weekend. There are also carnival rides all three days.

Of course, the main attraction, which you should plan to wait in line for, is the corn itself.

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