“When Farmers Were Heroes: The Era of the National Corn Husking Contests,” a documentary film on the popular pre-World War II activity, will be broadcast at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 20 on Iowa Public Television.
In the Quad-City area, a viewing celebration will take place, beginning at 8 p.m., at Lancers Grille, 350 E. LeClaire Road, Eldridge, just a corn “ear’s throw from the site” of an Oct. 30, 1940, corn husking contest on the Keppy Farm that attracted about 125,000 spectators. Food and drink will be available for purchase.
The 27-minute film was produced by Heritage Documentaries Inc., a nonprofit Quad-City organization with a mission of creating visual, audio and print materials showcasing historical subjects that have local and national impact. The film had its premiere in September at the Figge Art Museum in downtown Davenport. The documentary will also be televised at 6 p.m. Aug. 25 and at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 28 on the Iowa Public Television World channel.
Using old newsreel footage, photographs, artifacts and interviews, “When Farmers Were Heroes” traces the way corn husking competitions became a major event that celebrated rural life in America. Once considered the most grueling type of farm work, corn husking went from chore to spectator sport when the first contest was held in 1922. The competitions ended as the nation entered World War II. The last national contest was held during 1941 in La Salle County, Ill.
Curtis Roseman, professor emeritus of geography at the University of Southern California and the president of the Heritage Documentaries board, said corn husking was a national phenomenon at a time when one-fourth of Americans earned their living from the land and many urban dwellers could trace their roots to the farm.
The documentary was supported by RCH/Innovative Technological Partners Ltd., the Riverboat Development Authority, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., the CHS Foundation and individual contributors.