Labor Day Reminiscence; Sweet Memories of Home

The ceremonial Last Day of Summer is here again. Our long Labor Day weekend comes with a flourish as fairs, carnivals and festivals offer a wide variety of music, whimsical entertainment and every imaginable kind of tempting, mouthwatering (and usually unhealthy) treat. Who can resist a deep fried Oreo? Backyard grills are firing up and kids are taking their last dips in pools that will close for the season on Tuesday.

Some of my favorite memories of Labor Day take me back to my childhood in Danville, Illinois. Despite the looming spectre of school starting after the weekend, concerns were muted in part because of the National Sweet Corn Festival which would be in full swing a few miles away in Hoopeston. We could perch at our cousin Martha and Tom Merritt’s house, wander on downtown and fill ourselves with succulent, Supersweet bliss. To those who might chuckle at my glee, you just haven't had corn on the cob until you eat a few dozen ears of Illinois gold. The process of creating culinary perfection involves an antique steam engine and somewhere around 50 tons of sweet corn buttered and salted on conveyor belts delivered for free to ravenous foodies of all kinds. This has been going on since 1938 and shows no sign of demise. There are lots of other activities like carnival rides, a midway, live music, bingo, car shows and lots of beer for grown ups. But nothing makes my mouth water and heart long for home like the good old Sweet Corn Festival.

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The days of picnics in the park with speeches by union leaders have gone by the wayside and the labor movement seems to have lost its umph. Jerry Lewis isn't around to entertain-a-thon us any more with various labor organizations raising money for MDA. There is still a glimmer of respect paid to workers at the Labor Day Concert in Washington, DC with fireworks and the National Symphony Orchestra. But so it goes with many of our holidays. We often lose the original intent in favor of our celebration. Perhaps that would be a really good topic for another column. Be that as it may let the good times roll this weekend. Eat a bunch of sweet corn.