Nancy Edmonds Hanson
The excitement is coming to a boil on the Concordia College campus for next week’s 45th annual Cobber Corn Feed.
On Tuesday night, dozens of staffers and early-arriving athletes and upper classmen will gather to shuck 3,500 cobs of fresh corn – a feat that alumni director Eric Johnson says goes remarkably fast in high anticipation of the good time to come. Twenty-four hours later, those tons of corn – now boiled to perfection – will be consumed by 2,000 or so alumni, students, families and neighbors. Gathering outdoors near Prexy’s Pond, they’ll munch the iconic treat, dripping butter on their chins, in a light-hearted get-together that’s become a staple of the waning days of summer. The corn is free, the fun is family-style, and the fellowship includes friendly luminaries like Kernel Cobb, the iconic vegetable mascot who inspires the tongue-in-cheek battle cry “Fear the Ear.”
“Gatherings like this have been a hallmark of Concordia’s identity over the years. We study hard, we compete hard on the playing fields … but at the same time, we’re not that stuck on ourselves,” Eric says. “After all, they named the school teams after the cornfield where it was built.” He laughs. “You could say corniness is part of our identity. That’s fun. The corn feed is our opportunity to invite the community to share the joy.”
The concept of the Cobber Corn Feed was born in 1974, the brain child of recent grad Mark Halaas (’73) and elder alumnus Herb Morgenthaler (’61). “They just thought it would be fun to get together as Cobbers,” Eric explains. The first gatherings were held that August in Moorhead and in the Twin Cities, where Morgenthaler was an executive with the Dayton-Hudson Corporation.
The idea quickly took root. Those germinal events have grown to a network of alumni gatherings – 24 in 2019 – that span the lands in which Cobbers flourish, from Seattle and Portland to Los Angeles and Phoenix; and as far afield as Boston and Washington, D.C. Several in Minnesota are hosted by the college’s Office of Alumni Relations, including this week’s dates in Maple Grove and Alexandria. The rest are put together by Cobber alumni who’ve settled in Montana, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and the rest.
Some are shepherded by the college’s corn feed team led by associate director Matt Dymoke – four current students who work for Alumni Relations. The team includes “corn chair” Avery Hovland, who’s been planning this year’s events since February, plus Katie Ohren, Blake Dallager and Parker Erickson. They pop up at many of the events, equipped with an array propane burners and kettles that can cook up a dozen ears at a time. Some of the events, in true Scandinavian fashion, are styled as pot lucks, others as grill-your-own occasions.
Like many traditions, Eric says, interest in the corn feeds ebbs and flows. A 1982 graduate himself, he has headed the alumni office for the last dozen years. “The late ’80s and the ’90s were probably the heyday, when we had two or three crews traveling every summer,” he reports. “What gets people excited changes over time. It seemed to be diminish around 2000, but now we’ve been seeing a resurgence in the last couple of years.” He adds, “We’re expecting to have seen a significant increase by the end of the summer.” He cites attendance in Duluth two weeks ago, where numbers were up 25%.
“People seem to be reinvigorated. Young alums, especially, seem to be jazzed up at these opportunities to get together. Our biggest decade in Duluth was people who’ve graduated since 2000 … but we also had one from the class of 1941.”
Estimating the yield at the big feed here Wednesday, August 21, is dicey, he explains. “Since it’s free and open to everyone, and since we don’t sell tickets, it’s hard to say. Some people take more than one cob. Others don’t eat corn at all.” Given what they can count for sure, those 3,500 soon-to-be-shucked cobs coming in next week, he says a couple thousand guests seems a reasonable guess: “All I know for sure is that when it’s over, there’s no corn left.”
All are welcome at next week’s campus corn feeds, whether they have tie to the Concordia community or are just looking for an economical evening of family fun. The campus food service will also have hamburgers and hot dogs available for purchase. Inflatable games will be on hand to keep the kids occupied, along with music by Flatlands, a group of Cobber alums from the ’90s who play folk and rock. Serving begins at 5:30 p.m. and continues until 7 or so, or as Eric says, “whenever the corn runs out.”