Heading down the highway . . . We didn't have to look far for adventure yesterday. It just kept coming our way.
We woke up, rolled out the door and cruised down Route One to Hoopeston, Illinois, the self-designated Sweet Corn Capitol of the World (and probably the planet, unless somebody else's already claimed it). A quick check of Google shows that Hoopeston's claim stands.
Arriving just in time to catch the steam-driven tractors leading the parade on their way to the park, we set up in the shade and waited to watch a parade celebrating a tradition that kicked off almost 70 years ago according to Hoopeston's visitor site.
Organized by the Jaycees, the National Sweetcorn Festival is more than a parade with a 50 ton sweetcorn giveaway that promotes farming.
In talking to a board member from a state pageant, I found out that the parade is the "farm system" for the Miss America beauty pageant. If you want to see 38 runner-up Miss _______ s riding in Corvette convertibles and competing just like they do on live TV, this is the place to do it. (You may have to put up with a crowd of 300 or so in the audience.) There is - get this - no other contest like this in America. At all.
No matter where you stand on the beauty queen scene, you have to appreciate what my new contact told me. Winning pageants is about more than the scholarship money. It's about the speaking fees and endorsements that come with the crown. And while I'm more in favor of appreciating any person (or book) for more that their outward appearance, I have to say there's something to be said for doing your best by warming up for the big competition - even if your "sport" is gowns, suits and songs.
Although we didn't meet any of the contestants personally, Elvis took a break for a photo opp with the boys. Check out Peter's candy haul. The Allis Chalmers tractor driver paused his float and the parade so that I get a picture of Bruce in front a tractor just like the one his family used on their farm in southern Illinois.
After chowing down on Kag's barbeque and free hot buttered sweetcorn, we went on a five mile trail hike at Kickapoo State Park to walk across the iron bridge one last time before it goes down for good on September 6. The boys may be the last people to have their photograph taken on the bridge. On the way back through the meadow, we waved at a hot air ballon. Look for the moon in the picture. It was good to be back home again.