Handpicking corn stays alive

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UPPER SANDUSKY, Ohio – They came from over a dozen corn-growing states to the Wyandot County fairgrounds in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, Oct. 18-19 to determine who was the fastest corn husker in Ohio and the United States.

With modern farm machinery that picks and shells corn at dazzling speed, there is little need to pick corn by hand today.

But there are still some people around who handpicked corn in their youth, and others who simply like to go out and test themselves against the clock and see just how much they can pick while keeping old farm traditions and skills alive.

Any way you look at it, it’s still a good excuse to get out in the fresh autumn air, to get a little exercise and enjoy good company, perhaps get a chance to drive a team of draft horses and have something useful to show for your efforts besides a score card.

Annual event. The Ohio State Husking Contest at Upper Sandusky is an annual event, has been for years.

In fact, nobody I asked could tell me exactly when it started.

But they must be doing a good job, because nobody has challenged them for it.

National recognition. And they have done well enough over the years to be selected to host the 2003 National Corn Husking Contest and help celebrate the Ohio bicentennial.

The Wyandot County Fairgrounds is a good location for the event. It has good parking, lots of trees, grass and plenty of corn fields nearby.

The food vendors were there, a great antique tractor display, a horse-drawn corn grinder and a draft horse power source to run the corn conveyer. These were just a few of the attractions at the corn husker’s contest.

In charge. State and national president Pat Fruth, ran the field end of the contests and Don Reer, vice president, and Rose Reer, secretary, took care of the other end sending out wagons, pickers, timers and whatnot as needed.

Linked with phones, they coordinated the whole thing in a professional manner.

The volunteers on the scales got a good workout. With wagons often waiting, they got few breaks, and everybody appreciated the work of Roy Martin, Rod Asbury, Bill Byers and their helpers.

Dave Pahl not only brought in a team with a spare horse to run the corn conveyer, he also recruited the other teamsters who volunteered their teams and time.

Setting the tone. The draft horses pulling valuable, authentic farm wagons of a century ago, some owned by collectors, set the tone for the husking event.

The teamsters have a lot of work that starts the day before the contest. They have to get the draft horse teams cleaned up and harnessed and packed other gear for the trip that starts before dawn.

Most stay overnight, and they told me their horses were stabled well and they were well-fed.

Meaning. That means a lot to these teamsters who live for such events and contribute so much to the atmosphere, skills and rural traditions they are trying to preserve.

Brad Knuesh won the Ohio open men’s contest and finished a respectable 17th in the national contest.

Whittier Burnside won the Ohio women’s open contest.

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