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The Adel Sweet Corn Festival


This past weekend my family enjoyed the 30th anniversary of the Adel Sweet Corn Festival in Adel, IA. Adel, the Dallas County Seat, hosts the annual celebration at the town square. The county courthouse was surrounded by vendors from near and far. The streets were filled with people of all ages. There was laughter as people paused to tell stories or catch up since their last conversation. One of the great features of the festival was the tasty sweet corn. Lots and lots of delicious sweet corn. And it was free!

Just off the southwest corner of the square was a tent where volunteers distributed the free corn. As my family approached the tent, a pleasant lady handed out paper plates, and we waited our turn.

My turn came quickly enough. As I approched the tong bearing volunteer I was required to answer one simple question. “How many?” I said, “two.” I eagerly extended my paper plate, and behold! Free corn! I made my way to the tables that were set up in the street which were lined with generous portions of salt, pepper, butter, and paper towels. I buttered my corn, snatched up a handful of paper towels, and commenced eating. It was good, and the price was right.

Having completed my corn, my curiosity overcame me and I returned to the line. This time I was armed with a question.

“How many ears of corn will you folks give away this weekend?”

“150,000,” said one. Then another chimed in, “We had 10 tons shipped in last night, and it took our volunteers two hours to shuck it all by hand.” It was certainly a point of civic pride.

“How many?” they asked.

Again I said, “two.”

Driving home that afternoon I reflected upon the experience and offer the following observations.

1. Know what you do well. Even if it’s nothing more than sweet corn. Many times in life we miss what we do best by chasing the things we’d like to do best.

2. Celebrate what you do well. Our fine neighbors to the west took their best and threw a party, making their best the central focus of the celebration. I like to eat as much as the next person, but this community genuinely celebrated sweet corn without apology.

3. Use your strength to bring you together. People of all ages were present, walking around with butter dripping from their chins. I was impressed with how this event possessed the power to bring a community together, regardless of age or status. One can’t help but wonder how many people had gathered the night before to hand shuck 10 tons of corn. But it stands to reason that there were several, given the fact they did it in 120 minutes.

4. Use your strength to reach out to others. The Adel Sweet Corn Festival was in Adel. But everyone was welcome. When groups come together around their strengths, it almost seems reflexive to reach out to others with what they’ve discovered.

Categories : Leadership

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