By Karen Cernich

Sweet Corn Sunday Festival Celebrates Local Produce, Benefits Marthasville Fire District

Hannah Faust, a third-generation Marthasville firefighter, joined the department as soon as she could drive. Here, she adds a coat of butter to an ear of corn.

Treloar, Mo. — We only needed one look at the luscious ears of freshly harvested corn from Kopmann Farm up the road to know that a Sweet Corn Festival was a great idea. Our friends at Marthasville Volunteer Fire District agreed, so we teamed up to host what may become the First Annual Sweet Corn Festival on Sunday afternoon, August 15 alongside the Treloar trailhead on the Katy Trail.


Marthasville firefighters shucked and boiled the corn and coated each cob in butter. They cut wedges of watermelon and grilled hotdogs and hamburgers. Cyclists like Joe and Jamie Reed of Wentzville who were passing by as they rode the trail hoped off their bikes to get a taste.

“We love Treloar,” Jamie remarked, noting they have stopped here several times to take photos all around the area, including a selfie with the Giant Ear of Corn that was carved out of a 100-year-old dead Elm tree next to the Treloar Mercantile.

Some cold watermelon on a warm day for attendees.

Tammie and Bob Rundle of Ballwin attended the festival after receiving an email about it from Magnificent Missouri. “We wanted to come over and see what it’s all about,” Tammie said.

John and Julie Roberts of St. Louis brought their granddaughter, Hallie, out for the day to enjoy the live blue grass music and taste the fresh corn.

John and Anita Gleason of Ballwin were taking one of their weekly rides on the trail when they noticed the crowd outside the Treloar Mercantile and decided to stop. They typically ride two or three times a week, often starting in Marthasville. They like to pack a lunch and stop somewhere on the trail to eat, making their rides more like day-long excursions.

“Last year we rode 1,000 miles, in 20-mile or so segments,” John said. “We ride in the summer so we’ll be ready to ride in the fall.”

Avid cyclists John and Anita Gleason, Ballwin, who rode more than 1,000 miles on the Katy Trail last year, talk to Cade Harp with Missouri State Parks about volunteer opportunities with State Parks and the Katy Trail.

Last year, in order to reach the 1,000-mile mark, they even rode on a few cold days into the winter.

“We love the Katy Trail. We love the wind in your face; it makes you feel freer.”

“We love the Katy Trail,” Anita commented. “We love the wind in your face; it makes you feel freer.” They particularly love the bucolic nature of the Katy. “You just look out and it’s like 100 years ago,” John said. The couple would like to complete a thru-ride of the trail, and since John retired in April, they hope it’s a real possibility.

Ruth and Keith Oliver of Union, who ride the Katy Trail four or five times a week on their recumbent bicycles, stopped at the Treloar Trailhead to check out the Sweet Corn Festival. They normally like riding the Katy Trail because of how quiet it is. “Normally we only pass by two or three people and really enjoy all of the wildlife we see,” said Ruth, “but it’s nice to see people out enjoying the trail like today.”

Julie and John Roberts, St. Louis, brought their granddaughter, Hallie, to the festival to enjoy the live bluegrass music and taste the fresh sweet corn.

Festival Supports Training Firefighters

Money raised from the sale of the corn, watermelon and hot dogs will pay for Marthasville firefighters to attend swift water tech training in Indiana. The district, which was able to purchase a 14-foot Zodiac Swift Water Rescue boat with the proceeds from fundraisers held over the last several years, sent two firefighters to training earlier this year and expects to send four more next year. “We are an all-volunteer fire department,” Lt. Jack Lovelace commented. “We are strictly on a tax base, and our base is not that high because we are in a rural setting. The boat was entirely paid for with fundraiser money. Tax payers didn’t have to pay for any of it, or the tech training.”

To date, around a dozen 12 Marthasville firefighters have completed the training.

Marthasville, which runs around 300 calls a year, has roughly 60 active volunteer firefighters and three fire stations — in Marthasville, Dutzow and Treloar.

Jamie Reed of Wentzville takes a break from her ride on the Katy Trail to enjoy some fresh sweet corn and a hotdog.

The district includes 165 miles of coverage and has experienced a drastic increase in water-related emergencies in recent years. Every fall, the firefighters sell bratwurst and hotdogs during the Treloar Elevator Party. They added the Sweet Corn Festival as a way to boost their proceeds and celebrate the locally-grown produce.

Their cooking process was simple — they boiled the corn in a turkey frier and buttered each cob “the old-fashioned way”: You put water in a coffee can, set it on the grill to get it hot, drop butter on top. When the butter melts, a layer of butter lays on top of the water, so when you dip your corn cob in, it comes out completed coated with butter.


Giant Corn Cob Made for Selfies

The Norman and Gina Hellebusch family pose in front of the giant ear of corn outside of the Treloar Mercantile. The dead elm tree that the corn cob was carved from was planted around the same time that the Mercantile was built, and now it serves as a tribute to the area farmers and the entire community.

Norman and Gina Hellebusch, who live nearby, met their family at the Sweet Corn Festival to enjoy the fare and support the firefighters. They took a moment to pose for a photo with the giant ear of corn, which they consider a sort of tribute to the area farmers.

“It’s kind of neat to see so many people posing for photos with the corn,” Norman said, smiling.

Dan and Connie Burkhardt, who own the Treloar Mercantile located at the Treloar Trailhead, said they were worried that the dead 100-year-old Elm tree that became the Giant Ear of Corn would damage the building if it fell during a storm. But they didn’t just want to cut it down. The tree is special because it was planted around the same time that the Mercantile was built. “It’s unique to have this right by the store so we started thinking, what could we carve it into?” It was Connie who suggested an ear of corn. Once she said it, they knew it was a great idea.

“We thought it would be fun for people on the trail to take selfies with it,” Dan said. “Millions of bushels of corn were shipped out of the grain elevator here, so there couldn’t be anything more appropriate.”

They hired Matt Seitz, a wood carver with Midwest Carving out of Festus, who brought a collection of chainsaws and two assistants to get the job done. The result is as sweet as the corn it celebrates, and people everywhere love it. Even a local bride and groom made a point of posing with the corn cob on their wedding day.

Ruth and Keith Oliver, Union, ride the Katy Trail four to five times a week. Their recumbent bikes aren’t as fast as the traditional alternative, but they do allow them to see more of the scenery and wildlife as they ride the trail.

So the next time you’re cycling past the Treloar, make a point of taking a break and posing for a quick selfie of your own. If you post it to social media, be sure to tag Magnificent Missouri.

From dead elm to giant ear of corn, wood carver Matt Seitz of Midwest Carving is a master of his craft.