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The Ears Have It at the La Habra Corn Festival

The event has been selling cobs and raising money for charity since 1949.

August 08, 2004|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

Gilroy has the garlic festival, Garden Grove celebrates strawberries every year and, as each summer wanes, La Habra becomes corn central.

"I don't know where it came from, but it's a big tradition for more than 50 years," said Carol Sailors, 55, who has attended the La Habra Corn Festival every year since 1964.

Back then, she said, an ear of corn went for 25 cents. Today, it's $1.50, but it's still seen as a bargain for a freshly shucked ear of corn boiled in steaming water and then dumped in melted butter.

"It's the highlight of the summer," said Risa Bohrer, a former La Habra resident who now lives in Huntington Beach.

"Everybody in the city comes. The best part is eating the corn."

A parade with more than 150 entries -- including Miss La Habra, Heather Burke -- marched Saturday along a one-mile stretch of La Habra Boulevard.

The festival, started by the city's Host Lions Club in 1949, celebrates friendship and community and raises funds for the club's charitable works, most notably eye exams and eyeglasses for needy children, said Randy McMillan, general chairman of the festival.

The festival, which continues today at El Centro Lions Park at Cypress Street and Florence Avenue, raises about $60,000, McMillan said.

High school clubs, Boy and Girl Scout troops and other service organizations also use the festival to raise funds with food sales, rides and games.

"When La Habra High School was built, we helped pay for the swimming pool," McMillan said. "We helped pay for the city's first ambulance in the '60s."

Though the festival features rides and nearly 20 food and game booths, the corn is the biggest attraction. About 12,500 ears trucked in from Holt, in the San Joaquin Valley, are sold over three days.

Some like their corn with the old faithful -- salt and pepper -- but a variety of other toppings are available, including cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and ... mayonnaise.

About 30 ears at a time are packed tightly in wire baskets and lowered in the hot water.

McMillan declined to say how long the corn is cooked: "It's a secret."

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