NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Tonight marks the start of the 43rd North Ridgeville Corn Festival, the three-day community event that has become a town tradition.
The festival takes place on Bainbridge Road, between state Route 83 and Root Road today, Saturday and Sunday. The gates open at 6 p.m. today.
The festival began in 1975, when the mayor, Chuck Stewart, wanted the city to participate in the country’s bicentennial the following year, according to festival President John Butkowski.
“One of the requirements to become a bicentennial community was you had to have a long-lasting memorial to the bicentennial,” he said. “You could put up a statue or something like that.
“At that time,” in 1975, Ridgeville had quite a few corn farms. Some farms raised field corn, for animals, others raised sweet corn and others also had popcorn. I said, ‘Why don’t we think about having a corn festival, a community event?’”
The first festival was held in 1975, as a trial run, and was a one-day festival, held in honor of Harold Sweet, a corn farmer who was heavily involved in the community, Butkowski said.
That Corn Festival had 13 booths. Over the past 43 years, it’s grown into a festival that features about 100 booths, Butkowski said.
“It’s free admission, free parking and free entertainment,” he said. “It’s very affordable for families to come and participate. We tried to add things over the years. We added amusement rides, fireworks, a beer garden and new kids games. We have something for everybody.”
Butkowski said some of the highlights of this year’s festival will be the live entertainment.
Tonight, The McCartney Project, a tribute to Paul McCartney, Wings and The Beatles will perform 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Fireworks will follow the show.
On Saturday, Chris Higbee and his County Rock Band will perform 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, at 1:30 p.m., the grand parade will march down Center Ridge Road, starting at Marc’s and ending at the old North Ridgeville Middle School.
Additionally, there will be rides with all-day wristbands available, games and entertainment for children and adults alike.
When the festival began, one of the reasons the committee decided to do it was to help local organizations with fundraising, Butkowski said.
“Different organizations, at that point in time, had fundraisers throughout the year,” he said. “Everyone was trying to raise money. We said that if we could have one festival that the local organizations could get involved with, they could basically be having a fundraiser that would probably surpass what they could do on their own.”
All these years later, that vision hasn’t changed.
“The festival committee has been incorporated as a nonprofit,” Butkowski said. “We donate a percentage of the profits from the festival to various organizations within the city. We sponsor scholarships every year, donate money for various things for the police and fire departments and other organizations in the city.”
For more information on the North Ridgeville Corn Festival, visit www.nrcornfest.com.