Music and magic, beer and bouncy houses, watermelon and worship, pancakes and a parade are just a few Friday-Sunday finds in Rossville.
But the focus is on the corn – and lots of it. The Tall Corn Festival in Rossville will feature corn eating contests, a “tallest stalk of corn” contest and, fittingly, a cornhole tournament. Plenty of corn will also be available for those looking to get their fix.
Morgan Hansen, chair of the Rossville Community Development Committee, said she loves how the celebration, now in its 91st year, brings people together.
“It actually started to celebrate the upcoming harvest,” she said. “One thing you’ll notice about Rossville is that we have cornfields everywhere.”
Rossville is surrounded by corn, so the festival is just a way to prepare for harvest and to thank farmers for their hard work, Hansen said.
“It’s just a really fun time to get together before everyone gets out on the field and gets busy,” she said. “It’s like stepping back in time. You go out, you’re in the park, you talk face to face with people.”
Corn Eating and Corn Growing Contests Draw Large Crowds
Everyone enjoys the corn-eating contest, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday on the tennis courts at Rossville City Park.
“People come from all over to do this,” Hansen said. “They love it. It’s split into age groups. There’s little kids, school-aged kids, and adults. Each winner gets a gift card.
“For younger kids, it’s hilarious,” Hansen added. “My son and his sixth grade friends, for the past few weeks, they’ve been practicing eating their corn – like preparing for it.”
Hansen particularly enjoys watching the toothless crowd.
“When you have kids that don’t have front teeth, I’m like, ‘Oh my God! Oh, I’m helping you,'” she said.
Corn farmers bring samples of their pride and joy, looking to beat the competition every year. This competition also begins at 6 p.m. Friday on the tennis courts.
“The Kansas Corn Association is actually sponsoring our tall corn stalk event,” Hansen said. “People in Silver Lake, Rossville, St. Mary’s, Topeka – they grow their corn, they find their tallest stalk, and they cut it off, and they bring it in to be measured.
“First place gets $75, second place $50 and third place $25, so it’s really cool to see who has the tallest corn stalk,” she said.
Parade and reunion always play a role
The Grand Parade is a big draw. It starts at 10 a.m. Saturday on Main Street.
“The football team will have a float,” Hansen said. “The cheerleaders will have a float. The Dawgs Junior Football Teamwho goes from the first to the sixth year, will have a chariot.”
The parade marks “the first time all summer that the whole town, all your friends are there, and you see everyone, and it’s really fun, it’s a cool experience,” Hansen said.
“People come from all over for our parade,” she added. “I think last year we had over 3,000 people in our parade. It’s great to see the streets just lined up, full of guests.”
Rossville also sees most of its reunions during the festival.
“People plan it all year for this weekend because a lot of people are going to be in town,” Hansen said. “We have people from Manhattan, Topeka, Lawrence coming for the music.
“So we have a multitude of people who come for a multitude of reasons, but yes, you have grandchildren who come to visit grandparents, you have cousins, aunts, uncles – everything,” said she declared. “So friends, you name it, they’re here.”
Friday night starts with a bang
The festivities begin at 4 p.m. in Rossville City Park.
“Friday night is all about the local,” Hansen said. “We’ll have high school cheer, high school dance, they’ll perform. The high school band will perform.
“We decided we were going to ‘go big or go home,’ and we got a 52-foot bouncy house that’s a water obstacle course in a small pool,” Hansen added. “And then we got one just for the younger ones, because some three- and four-year-olds probably shouldn’t be around the older kids.”
A meal of watermelons will be followed by fireworks at the end of the evening.
A magician will perform in front of a difficult crowd on Saturday afternoon
Marty Hahne, aka Marty the Magician, will bring his special brand of illusion, aimed at younger audiences, at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“I think they love seeing that an adult can really act silly and funny, and the kids love the way I approach the show,” Hahne said. “I always tell people that I’m 63 with the maturity level of about eight years old.”
“A lot of times the kids are all over me and they think they’re getting the best out of me, somehow, and then I managed to turn things around.”
Kids can actually be pretty crafty, Hahne said.
“It’s an honest audience,” he said. “If you’re holding something in your right hand and you apparently put it in your left hand… adults will just say, ‘OK, he made it disappear with his left hand’, and kids will say, ‘Whoa! is in it? your right hand?
“They will always want to know. So you have to be on your guard.”
Audience participation is a big part of Hahne’s show.
“We can have two kids brave enough to get on stage and see if a sheet of steel can penetrate their wrists,” he said.
Saturday Night Street Dance features Lazy Wayne Band and Bash
Several blocks will be cordoned off for the festivities on Saturday starting at 6:30 p.m. downtown.
“Our biggest attraction of the whole weekend is our street dancing, which takes place on Saturday nights,” Hansen said. “This year we kept it local. We had the Lazy Wayne Band and Bash. They’re awesome – old school country, current songs, 80s, 90s. something for everyone.”
The American Legion will host a party with live music after midnight.
What’s new? A petting zoo
This year, the Tall Corn Festival will feature its first-ever Petting Zoo from 4-8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.
Children can visit this zoo for free. It will offer a llama, an alpaca, goats, sheep, rabbits, small calves, zebus and turtles,
“I was laughing because I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be so awesome,'” Hansen said.
She thinks the kids are “going to love it,” she says.
‘It’s just awesome. It’s just a different town’
The town will wrap up events on Sunday with a worship service in the park and a horseshoe tournament afterwards.
Hansen is grateful for all that city workers do to make this annual event a success.
“They gave so much of their time to help us that weekend,” she said. “We’ve already called them at 1pm, 2pm with a problem, and they show up. They get up, they come down and they solve the problem for us. So we’re very grateful to them.
“I know they probably put in 40 hours this weekend alone.”
“It’s exhausting,” Hansen said, speaking from personal experience. “But every year when it’s done, I’m so proud to be from Rossville. And all the support we get, the money raised from this event goes straight back into our community.
“It’s just a great feeling to see families there. I have two young children and I always tell them that community service is what it’s all about.
“It’s just awesome. It’s just a different city.”
What to know about the Rossville Tall Corn Festival
Participation in the Grand Parade is free. Participants simply show up and take a number for judging purposes.
Street dancing tickets, available at the door, are $15 for adults and $5 for children ages 5-12. Children 4 and under are free. Lawn chairs are encouraged for the event.
For a full calendar of events, go to RCDC 2022 Tall Corn Events Website.
Catheryn Hrenchir is a staff writer for The Topeka-Capital Journal. She can be reached at [email protected] or (785) 817-6383.