Topekans can 'step back in time' at Rossville's annual Tall Corn Festival next Friday through Sunday

·7 min read
Ears of corn are measured during the annual Tall Corn Festival in Rossville.
Ears of corn are measured during the annual Tall Corn Festival in Rossville.

Music and magic, beer and bouncy houses, watermelon and worship, pancakes and a parade are just a few finds Friday through Sunday in Rossville.

But the center of attention is on corn — and lots of it. Rossville's Tall Corn Festival will feature corn-eating contests, a "tallest corn stalk" contest and, fittingly, a cornhole tournament. Lots of corn will also be available for those looking to get their fix.

Morgan Hansen, president of the Rossville Community Development Committee, said she loves the way the celebration, now in its 91st year, brings people together.

"It actually was started to celebrate the upcoming harvest," she said. "One thing that you'll notice about Rossville is we have cornfields everywhere."

Rossville is surround by corn, so the festival is just a way to prepare for harvest and thank farmers for their hard work, Hansen said.

"It's just a really fun time to get together before everyone gets out in the field and gets busy," she said. "It's like taking a step back in time. You come out, you're at the park, you're talking face-to-face to people."

A corn eating contest takes place at Rossville's Tall Corn Festival.
A corn eating contest takes place at Rossville's Tall Corn Festival.

Contests for corn eating and corn growing bring in a large crowd

Everyone enjoys the corn eating contest, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday at the tennis courts at Rossville City Park.

"People come from all around to do that," Hansen said. "They love that. It is broken into age groups. There's little kids, school-aged kids and adults. Each winner gets a gift card.

"For the younger kids, it's hilarious," Hansen added. "My son and his sixth-grade friends, the last few weeks they've been practicing eating their corn — like preparing for it."

Hansen especially enjoys watching the tooth-impaired crowd.

"When you have kids who have no front teeth I'm like, 'Oh my gosh! Oh, help you,'" she said.

Corn growers bring in samples of their pride and joy, looking to beat the competition each year. That competition also begins at 6 p.m. Friday at the tennis courts.

"The Kansas Corn Association actually sponsors our tall corn stalk event," Hansen said. "People from Silver Lake, Rossville, St. Mary's, Topeka — they grow their corn, they find their tallest stalk, and they cut it down, and they bring it in to get measured.

"First place gets $75, second place gets $50 and third gets $25, so that's really cool to see who has the tallest corn stalk," she said.

Parade and reunions always play a part

The Grand Parade is a large draw. It begins at 10 a.m. Saturday on Main St.

"The football team will have a float," Hansen said. "The cheerleaders will have a float. The Junior Dawgs football team, which is our first through sixth grade, will have a float."

The parade marks "the first time all summer the whole town, all of your friends are there, and you see everybody, and it's just a really fun, it's a cool experience," Hansen said.

"People come from all around for our parade," she added." I think last year we had over 3,000 people in our parade. It is awesome to see the streets just lined, packed full of guests."

Rossville also sees most of its reunions during the festival.

"People plan it year-round for this weekend because so many people are going to be in town," Hansen said. "We have people from Manhattan, Topeka, Lawrence come for music.

"So we have a multitude of people coming for a multitude of reasons, but yeah, you have grandkids coming in to visit grandparents, you have cousins, aunts, uncles — everything," she said. " So friends, you name it, they're there."

Friday night starts off with a bang

Festivities begin at 4 p.m. in Rossville's City Park.

"Friday night is focused on the local," Hansen said. "We will have high school cheer, high school dance, they'll perform. The high school band will perform.

"We decided we were gonna 'go big or go home,' and we got a 52-foot bounce house that is a water obstacle course into a little pool," Hansen added. "And then we got one just for the younger kids, because some three- and four-year-olds probably shouldn't be up with the older kids."

A watermelon feed will be followed by fireworks at the end of the evening.

Magician to perform for a tough crowd Saturday afternoon

Marty Hahne, aka Marty the Magician, will bring his special brand of illusion, geared toward a younger audience, at 1 p.m. Saturday.

"I think they love seeing that an adult can really act silly and funny, and the kids love the way I approach the show," Hahne said. "I always tell people I'm a 63 year old with the maturity level of about an eight year old."

"A lot of the times, the kids are one up on me and they're thinking they're getting the best of me, somehow, and then I managed to turn things around."

Children can actually be rather astute, Hahne said.

"They're an honest audience," he said. "If you're holding something in your right hand and apparently put it in your left hand...the adults will just say, 'OK, he made it disappear from his left hand,' and the kids will say, 'What's in your right hand?

"They'll still want to know. So you have to be on your toes."

Audience participation is a big part of Hahne's show.

"We may have two children that are brave enough to come up on stage and see if a sheet of steel can penetrate through their wrists," he said.

The Lazy Wayne Band, comprised of, from left, Marc Houser, Sam Williams, Dallas Pryor and Travis Breese, will perform Saturday night.
The Lazy Wayne Band, comprised of, from left, Marc Houser, Sam Williams, Dallas Pryor and Travis Breese, will perform Saturday night.

Saturday night's street dance features Lazy Wayne Band and Bash

Several blocks will be cordoned off for festivities on Saturday starting at 6:30 p.m. downtown.

"Our biggest attraction of all weekend is our street dance, which is Saturday night," Hansen said. "This year we stayed local. We got the Lazy Wayne Band and Bash. They're awesome — old-school country, current songs, 80s, 90s. They're kind of all over the place, so there's a little bit of something for everybody."

The American Legion will host a party featuring live music after midnight.

What's new? A petting zoo

This year's Tall Corn Festival will feature its first-ever petting zoo from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Children will be able to visit that zoo free of charge. It will offer a llama, an alpaca,  goats, sheep, rabbits, small calves, zebu and turtles,

"I was laughing because I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, this is gonna be so awesome," Hansen said.

She thinks the children "are going to love it," she said.

'It's just awesome. It's just a different town'

The city will conclude events Sunday with a worship service in the park and a horseshoe tournament afterward.

Hansen feels grateful for everything the city workers do to make the annual event a success.

"They give out so much of their time to help us that weekend," she said. "We've called them at 1, 2 p.m. before with an issue, and they show up. They get up, they come down and they fix it for us. So we're super grateful for them.

"I know they've probably put in 40 hours that weekend alone."

"It is exhausting," Hansen said, speaking about her personal experience. "But every year when it's done, I'm just so proud to be from Rossville. And all the support we get, the money that's raised from this event goes directly back into our community.

"It's just an awesome feeling to see families out there. I have two young kids, and I always tell them community service is what it's all about.

"It's just awesome. It's just a different town."

What to know about Rossville's Tall Corn Festival

Participation in the Grand Parade is free. Entrants simply show up and pick up a number for judging purposes.

Tickets for the street dance, available at the gate, are $15 for adults and $5 for children five to 12. Children four and under are free. Lawn chairs are encouraged for the event.

For a full schedule of events go to RCDC's Tall Corn 2022 Events website.

Catheryn Hrenchir is a feature writer for The Topeka-Capital Journal. She can be reached at or (785) 817-6383.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Rossville's annual Tall Corn Festival runs next Friday through Sunday