WEST POINT – Even though Shuckfest at the 65th Annual West Point Sweet Corn Festival was set to start at 5 p.m., by 4:30 p.m. hundreds of volunteers were surrounded by heaps of green, stringy husks.

Community members gathered at Merschman Seeds to shuck 16 tons of sweet corn, which will be cooked and served for free throughout the festival this weekend.

Festival chairman Hannah Fox said while Shuckfest is not exactly a race, the goal is to shuck 33,234 ears of corn in an hour and 15 minutes. That translates to 445 ears of corn a minute.

However, that mountainous task became easy with the helping hands.

“So many people are willing to volunteer that a lot of things are taken care of,” Fox said. “They are more than willing to help out.”

While this year’s sweet corn only came about 150 miles from Savanna, Illinois to arrive for the festival, country artist Jake McVey traveled about 500 from Nashville, Tennessee to return to his roots for the weekend.

McVey, originally from Mediapolis, partnered with Merschman Seeds to promote their products. Kids lined up to have McVey sign copies of the Merschman Seeds 2018 Product Guide, which includes a free single CD of his song “Grow.”

“I wanted to put together a song that kind of hit my growing up roots,” McVey said. “I grew up around this area baling hay and corn and everything like everybody else.”

While McVey has been to the Sweet Corn Festival several times before, even performing at a few, Wednesday was his first at Shuckfest to “really see how it’s done.”

As volunteers filled up crates with the perfectly yellow corn, festival committee members drove around in golf carts scooping them away like an assembly line. 

Kim Bohnenkamp of Fort Madison sat with her family on benches and showed her two young daughters how to shuck corn. A first-time experience for the whole family, Bohnenkamp said she hopes to make Shuckfest a family tradition.

That tradition is already alive in Tara Sides’ family. Sides of Donnellson said her father works for Merschman’s Seeds and she has been attending Shuckfest since she was a child.

“Even when I was a kid,” Sides said, watching her son spend his second year at the event. “And now my kids are doing it.”

The sweet corn will be ready to eat from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. until every last ear of corn is eaten on Sunday.