There was certainly some unease heading into the 2019 version of the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce’s version of Cornfest — arguably the largest free festival in Western Canada.
An immense hail storm, with golf-ball-sized offerings that ripped though the Barnwell/Taber area in early August will do that to the collective psyche of those who look forward to the annual festival as an exclamation point to their summer.
Phone calls poured into the Chamber of Commerce, and the Times also certainly had its fill of Nervous Nellies wondering if the festival’s streak of 33 straight years of family fun was coming to an end in 2019.
But even if not one cob of Taber corn made its ways to the Cornfest grounds at Confederation Park because of the aftermath of Mother Nature’s wrath so close to the festival, deep down inside, everyone knew it would soldier on.
The agriculture sector is a hearty lot, and despite the hail storm with its tornado-level winds wiping out a healthy portion of the crop Taber is best known for nationally, even if there was no corn available, the town and its residents would have shown up in droves as a sign of solidarity, not only for area farmers, but the summer festival itself that brings people together. The Times can only imagine what the mood was among farmers of various crops affected by the storm shortly afterwards, where tears were shed involving the pride and year-round care that is needed to tend to one’s bountiful field that brings food to our dinner plates.
The local business community sees the value for families in Cornfest, with 14 diamond sponsors, 18 platinum sponsors, 28 gold sponsors, 32 silver sponsors and 26 bronze sponsors. For a town hovering around the 8,500-plus mark, that is a business community that believes in Cornfest, with over 120 businesses answering the call with some sort of sponsorship.
It was perhaps quite poignant when the early morning of Cornfest Thursday started off with a light rain storm, only to see the sun make its way through later in the day, just in time for the public to line the Taber downtown streets to enjoy a packed parade.
Weather remained consistent in the weekend for spectators to enjoy the packed Cornfest events, including crowd favourites of chili cook-offs, corn stuffing and eating, and the Cornfest stage brimming with entertainment for 34 1/2 hours over three days.
Always evolving, the chamber mixes things up with its food vendors and sprinkling in newer events like go-karts, laser tag, axe throwing and bungee jumping. While certainly not helping the waist line with all the delicious food available, including Taber corn, there was plenty for people to see to work off those calories walking the grounds.
In the end, even the wrath of Mother Nature could not keep a community down to enjoy the 30 different attractions, 24 different stage performances, and various food vendors that 2019 Cornfest had to offer, all while southern Albertans got to catch up with family and friends.
As the farmers, chamber, sponsors and participants alike showed for a trying 2019, the spirit of Cornfest will never die, no matter how hard Mother Nature tries to dissuade it.