Fri, Jan. 24

Corn is King at Camp Verde Cornfest

It all started one spring in the late 1970s when Brenda Hauser asked her husband Dick to plant a few acres of sweet corn.

Now here it is almost 40 years later, and that little patch next to the Verde River has become an institution.

Anyone who has been around these parts for any length of time knows that July is corn time. For last month or so we have all anxiously awaited for the sign on Montezuma Castle Highway to announce that the sweet corn is ready and the wagon is full.

In spite of what the calendar says, summer does not officially begin in Camp Verde until that day comes.

And no sooner does the corn arrive than the town calls for a celebration. For several years now the residents of Camp Verde and numerous out of town corn aficionados have gathered to pay homage to the valley's fabulous sweet corn and the family who has made it all possible.

July 15-16, the Camp Verde Parks and Recreation Department will host the 14th annual Cornfest in beautiful downtown Camp Verde.

The festival is a time for corn connoisseurs to get together for some corny eats, corny contest, kids games and camaraderie.

The entire event will be officiated by this year's Corn King and Queen, chosen from among the community's most seasoned citizens.

Along with the royalty, we will all be paying our respects to the undisputed benefactors of the event, Hauser and Hauser Farms.

What started as a sidelight for the Hauser family has become the highlight of their farming operation.

"We started with five acres of sweet corn, a table and an umbrella," Brenda said. "Back them we charged 50 cents a dozen if you picked it and 75 cents if we picked it. Now days it would cost you $25 a dozen if I had to pick it."

"Now we have 60-70 acres of sweet corn, a permanent stand, if the wind doesn't blow it apart again, and an eager staff of pickers and sellers," Brenda said.

Dick and Brenda ran their corn stand as a hobby, more or less, until the mid 1980s when their son Kevin and his wife Claudia took it over.

They expanded the crop to 20 acres, and slowly, through trial and error, turned the sweet corn into the town's favorite business.

Finding the right kind of corn and learning to time the plantings so there is a steady supply throughout the summer has been a learning experience.

"It took a long time to figure it all out. We experimented with different seed, and planting methods for about four years," Kevin said. "We took all of the records and figured out a planting schedule that seems to be working."

"That could all change though," he notes.

The initial crop goes in on the first day of spring, March 21, and the plantings continue until early July.

The corn last until the first part of September, although Kevin would like to extend the season a little longer and maybe have some around when the pumpkins arrive in October. That idea, however, has yet to be approved by the rest of his staff.

That staff includes some long time friends, the Hauser's children, and their children's friends.

"It's a family," Claudia said. "I love doing it. People are so kind and continually thank us for doing what we love doing. It really makes you feel good."

Hauser and Hauser Farms also includes around 1,200 acres of alfalfa, timothy grass, oats, barley, wheat, pumpkins, potatoes and watermelons.

The crops may vary from year to year, but the corn and the Cornfest remain every year.

This year's Cornfest is sponsored by Hauser and Hauser Farms and Bud and Bud Light. Festivities will begin at 5 p.m. on both July 15 and 16 at the Community Center in downtown Camp Verde. Admission is free and there are plenty of activities planned.

A greased pig contest is scheduled for both evenings along with corn eating, corn shucking, hog calling, cow pie tossing and corniest joke contests. There will be face painting, train rides, field games and inflatable playland for the kids.

There will be lots of roasted corn, corn for take home purchase, old time ice cream and a full service beer garden.

The Burnett family, winners of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival will provide music for the Corn Ball.

For additional information contact the Camp Verde Parks and Recreation Department at (928) 567-0535, Ext. 135.

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