Sunday, September 7, 2008

Festival Finale!

Years ago we came to know about a festival known as the Arcola Broom Corn Festival. Admittedly, the words 'broom corn' does not excite me because of its association with cleaning. But when I first heard about it I wondered why celebrating broom corn has become a popular thing here and, what in the world is broom corn anyway? Broom corn is from the Sorghum family, basically grasses, and to quote wikipedia yet again, "Numerous Sorghum species are used for food (as grain and in sorghum syrup or "sorghum molasses"), fodder, the production of alcoholic beverages, as well as biofuels." I like that word, fodder. Anyway, believe it or not, they have very little food value and are used mainly for making...... brooms! A ton of broomcorn brush makes 80 to 100 dozen brooms. Whew! Arcola claims to be the "Broom Corn Capital of the World" so thus the festival.

Turns out the brooms are gorgeous! I never thought I would say a sentence like that! I have loads of pics so today you are getting collages... Here is a pic of fresh broom corn, a scaled down model of a palace made for the first broom corn festival in 1898 (the original was three stories high and entirely covered in broom corn), a pic of broom corn making, and some pics of Aedan selecting his first broom. His choice was a short handled, very cute and colorful broom. Hey, it is no Nimbus 2000 but it is working just like magic - he now wants to clean everything within reach.

So the brooms alone couldn't have made the festival so popular but these guys do - the Amazing Arcola Lawn Rangers! World Famous even! They've "performed" for the Holiday Bowl parade, the Fiesta Bowl parade, the Indianapolis 500 parade, the NHL Hall of Fame Game parade.... even Dave Barry has joined their ranks at one point in time and describes it pretty well in a column he wrote, entitled Weirdsville, USA:

"I am now 30 miles down the road in Arcola, Ill., to attend the annual Broom Corn Festival. Arcola has long been a major power in the broom industry; it also boasts the world's largest rocking chair, the world's largest collection of brooms and brushes, and the world's only combination bowling alley and gourmet French restaurant.

I am not making any of this up.

I am here to march in the Broom Corn Parade with Arcola's world-famous Lawn Rangers, a top precision lawn mower drill team. This is my third year as a Ranger. I've tried to talk my wife into going to the Broom Corn Festival with me, but she resists.

"It's just a bunch of guys who drink beer and push lawn mowers around and act juvenile," she says.

"Yes!" I say, not understanding her point.

Anyway, the Rangers do more than just "push lawn mowers around." We also carry brooms, and we perform precision broom- and-lawn-mower maneuvers, such as the extremely difficult (for us, anyway) "Cross and Toss." Plus, this year we are marching with - get ready - a 10-foot high painted concrete statue of Elvis. It belongs to Clark and Sandy Stafford of Seneca, Ill., and it is available for rent. It's mounted on a trailer, facing backward, and it weighs 5,000 pounds, almost as much as The King himself near the end.

It's difficult, using mere words, to describe the scene as the Rangers, more than 50 strong, stride in two columns down the parade route, pushing our mowers in front of us, raising our brooms on high at the command "Brooms Up!"; meanwhile, bringing up the rear, glinting in the Midwestern sun, is: Elvis' giant concrete butt.

The parade was pretty fun, as much as parades can be. I loved parades as a kid - mostly because of the candy that is thrown from the floats. There was so much candy thrown out to us, I think in part because we were towards the front of where the parade started but also there were a lot of people throwing candy in general. Aedan didn't know what to think. For a long time he had this look on his face that seemed to say, "Why are all these people throwing candy on the ground? What am I supposed to do about it?" And the Shriners in their cool little cars. I honestly don't know what the Shriners are all about (if any of you care to enlighten me) but I do know that they have awesome little cars and do cool little maneuvers and Aedan loved watching them so they can't be all that bad right?

Well the Lawn Rangers were funny and there were also some other strange things. Like the 2008 Illinois State Overall Princess whose crown was easily bigger than her head and she must have been practicing her little beauty queen hand waves. And there was the God Mobile where you can take a free two question test to get the answer to the question "Are you going to heaven?". I kind of wish we would have stopped to see what the two questions were. Any guesses? And the miniture pony drawn carriages had little heart shaped bells on them and when they trotted by it was like a little bell choir too.

Well what is a fair without fair food? This festival actually has good food. One that we look forward to is the saltwater taffy booth. The black walnut ones just melt in my mouth... We had to get a funnel cake, then we also saw someone selling pork-on-a-stick and wow, it was to die for! We found a stand that was selling pumpkin ice cream which was yummy, just like pumpkin pie in ice cream form (something I should try making sometime huh?). As if we hadn't had enough food I also got an apple dumpling, which surprisingly I've never tried before and after having one I know it won't be my last. Ohhh... it was very very tasty! I think of how much money we spent on fair food and groan but my mind is telling me that it was absolutely worth it.

As this will most likely be our last time to do these small town festivals in the midwest, I am glad we ended it with a proper festival!
Here are some extra links to check out if any of this interested you:
lawn rangers
broom corn
amazing arcola

And see the lawn rangers in action:


  1. We were there, too- thanks to you guys telling us about it. And yes, Taylor also got a little broom, and the pumpkin ice cream was to die for. I'll post my pics tomorrow.

  2. Glad you guys had fun, we will have to try that festival next year. You need to let us know what other festivals around here are worth going to.

  3. Porkchop on a stick?! That is genius! Who doesn't love a porkchop? And now it can be traveling food!
    Have you had the pumpkin pie ice cream from the Creamery---Delish!
    I love all of the small town festivals in the Midwest, so fun!

  4. How fun! Jackie this blog is amazing. Your pictures and commentary are very entertaining!

  5. So Jackie you are a great example to me of making the most of your surroundings. I never went to any festivals while I was living there with the facade that there was nothing to do, but now I'm living in a place where there is TOO much to do and I still haven't done anything :( You'll have to come visit to liven me up a little oh and when you do come could you bring the broom? Gigi desperately needs some incentive to help clean :)

  6. Jackie--Reading this was the highlight of my day--I can't get over the Lawn Rangers. Great pics. You guys have to move out here so we can take in all the great festivals the NW has to offer. It would be so much fun to attend these with you!!!! Though there is no where near as much beer consumed up here--it may not be as fun.


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