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A ‘KORNFUFFLE:’ Folks want answers from Belle Fourche Sweet Corn Festival organizers

BELLE FOURCHE, S.D.  — It may seem corny to some but in Butte County, folks take their corn seriously. So when organizers of the 4th annual Belle Fourche Sweet Corn Festival set for Sat., August 19, 2023, decided to source their corn from a different provider instead of the one used in previous years (who also is among the originators of the festival) well, things got to popping.

The first public hint of hurt feelings came in the form of a Facebook post from Keil Sweet Corn, a Belle Fourche area sweet corn stand, described by some commenters as “a staple of the community”, run by a man named Ron Keil.

In the Facebook post, Keil wrote:

About four years ago Doug Cole and I came up with the idea of a sweet corn festival. My reasoning was I wanted to thank the people of Belle Fourche and the surrounding area by celebrating the harvest with free cooked sweet corn. Together with the city of Belle Fourche and downtown businesses we began the festival. I have donated thousands of dollars of sweet corn over the past three years for this occasion and am very thankful for the support from the local community.

This year in preparation for the festival I visited the center of the Nation director, (who is now in charge of the celebration), about an hour ago and was informed that I would not in fact be serving the free corn this year. She told me she had “other sources” and would not disclose who they were and where they were from. The corn was to be purchased by local businesses. I was a little surprised and saddened. I lived in the Belle Fourche area for 65 years and have been involved in agriculture for over 50.

So, I still would like to thank the people of Belle Fourche and the surrounding area and I will be having my own Sweet Corn fest the same night and will be giving out unlimited hot buttered corn on the cob to express my thanks for the support of the people of Belle Fourche and the surrounding area.

Thank you Sincerely,

RON KEIL, VIA FACEBOOK.

Since that post, the comments on posts on the official Belle Fourche Sweet Corn Festival Facebook page have been comprised of people lamenting the expected lack of Keil corn at the festival and chastising those who made the decision. Some have even called for boycotts of the event.

News media, including KELOLAND News have reached out to both  Keil and to Kristi Thielen, Director of the Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center, which is in charge of the festival this year.

Keil for his part declined to comment for the story, saying he’d made his statement on his Facebook page.

Reaching out to Thielen via email, KELO asked for information on the change in corn sourcing for the 2023 event, why the decision was made to not use Keil sweet corn, and where the corn will now come from.

Thielen replied, saying that the corn is being cooked by a committee within the Sweet Corn Festival this year and that since the committee members are local, corn will be purchased locally.

Asked for clarification on whether the corn provided in years past had been purchased from Keil or donated by him, Thielen said that she believed the corn had always been donated by Keil free of charge.

The Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center, which runs the festival this year, is an entity of the City of Belle Fouche, and receives funding from the city. In an email exchange, Thielen confirmed to KELOLAND that funds for the Sweet Corn Festival come from the Promotion of the City Budget.

Asked if these Promotion of the City Budget funds will be used to by the corn for the 4th annual festival, Thielen stated the following:

Very little of this will go to corn. The corn is being purchased by the committee members who are donating it to the festival this year.

KRISTI THIELEN VIA EMAIL

For those who won’t ‘lend an ear’ to anything but Keil corn, reports are there will be a stand just down the road from the festival.

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