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Cornhusking competition a big draw in western Illinois

 Caroline Robbins working through a row of corn on Saturday morning.
Rich Egger
Caroline Robbins working through a row of corn on Saturday morning.

The national competition included 12 categories and drew contestants from 14 states.

Competitors from 14 states – including Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri – participated in the National Cornhusking Contest. The competition took place on the Lewis Farm just outside of Good Hope on Sunday, Oct. 16.

Caroline Robbins, 21, came up from Macon, Mississippi to compete in the division for women ages 21 to 49. She first tried cornhusking as a child because her grandfather was a farmer in Indiana.

“He started doing the competitions and I came to watch him. And then my mom did it and then I started doing it,” Robbins said.

During the competition, Robbins wore a leather glove with a loop that goes over the thumb. The glove has a hook on it that’s used to scrape across the corn cob and remove the husk.

Robbins said it’s been about four years since she participated in the cornhusking competition, and it might be her last for a while because she’s getting busier with school and other activities.

But she does enjoy doing it.

“It is fun. If you’re a competitive person you’d probably enjoy it,” she said.

Robbins grew up playing softball and has also played volleyball and basketball. Those are team sports, while cornhusking is an individual competition.

“I am competitive with myself. So I want to do better than I did the last time,” Robbins said.

She said she just focuses and tries to be the best she can at it.

The national competition included 12 categories. A complete list of how everyone finished can be found here. Results for past years can be found here.

Joel Gruver, who is an agriculture professor at nearby Western Illinois University, served as a judge for some of the categories. He also competed in the Men 50+ division.

Gruver said he had volunteered to help out at the state cornhusking competition for several years, and one year he brought with him several WIU students.

“Finally, one of the students said, ‘Dr, Gruver, you’ve gotta give it a try,’” Gruver said.

Now he has competed for around five years.

Gruver does not use the glove with the hook. He said it requires a technique that he hasn’t learned, so he just husks with his bare hands.

That has not deterred him.

“Last year I was the top male (age) 50 to 75. But I think the average age in my class was about 70. So youth prevailed rather than skill last year,” he said with a laugh.

He finished fourth in that category in this year’s national competition.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Copyright 2022 Tri States Public Radio. To see more, visit Tri States Public Radio.