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Historical contest held in Bremen

October 18, 2012

Teens competing in the local corn husking event included (from left) Hannah Rupert, Nick Rynearson, Jackson Jones and Michael Minarik. Photo by Lindsay Hudkins

BREMEN — The Indiana State Hand Corn Husking Contest took place Oct. 6 at the Craig Geyer Farm in Bremen, continuing a competition that dates back to 1924 in Polk County, Iowa.
Prior to the 1920s, farmers husked corn by hand without the use of machinery. Though manually husking the corn had been hard work, it had also helped foster a sense of community and brought families closer together as they worked side by side. With two major world wars and the invention of new machines like the maize thresher, hand husking was eventually made obsolete. This inevitable change from manual labor to machine labor created a desire to keep hand husking alive; this is how the hand corn husking contest was born. Though the contest had only six competitors and 800 in the audience in its first year, by 1935 there were more than 110,000 watching the event; it occurred in Newtown, Ind.
In recent years, the state competition has been held in multiple towns across Northern Indiana. According to Joe Shaffer, president of the competition, Bremen was chosen this year because most areas around the state did not have a suitable enough crop for the contest due to the severe drought in the summer months. Clay Geyer of Craig Geyer farms had been involved in the competition in previous years and offered the use of his family farm for the contest. There were 10 classes (divided by age and gender) in which people could compete with the chance to go to Central City, Neb. Oct. 21 for the National Corn Husking Contest. Though anyone of any age was welcome to husk, children aged 11 or younger were not competing to go to nationals.
Each contestant was given 20 minutes to husk the corn quickly and efficiently, leaving as little husk as possible. Beside each person, a horse and wagon would follow to allow the person to throw the husked corn into the wagon. Present also was a timer, who would speak only a 30-second warning before starting the event, and then two warnings when time was running out: at two minutes remaining, and finally at one minute remaining. A gleaner also was with the contestant. The gleaner held a bag and collected all corn from the stalks which was missed by the contestant. When the time period was completed, the husked corn was judged. For each pound of missed corn the gleaner picked up, three pounds of collected corn was deducted. Any husks that remained on the corn in the wagon were also weighed, and further deductions were made if necessary. Winners look forward to the national competition, and all others were awarded ribbons to remember their participation.
Winners and their categories were as follows:
• Mens open (20 min.) — Steven Schuman, Columbia City, first place with 167.4 pounds; Don Williams, Middlebury, 147.18; and Richard Hinton, Warren with 139.78.
• Womens open (20 min.) — Peggy Smith, LaPorte, 69.2 pounds
• Young mens (20 mins.) — Mike Geyer, Bremen, first with 355.96; Duane Lambright, Shipshewana, second with 311.2; Clay Geyer, Bremen, third with 295.74; A.J. Smith, Indianapolis, fourth with 196.98; Tim Smith, LaPorte, fifth with 114.2; Tom Smith, Chicago, Ill., sixth with 86.75; and Atlee Lambright, Topeka, seventh with -120.76
• Senior men (20 min.) — Enos Miller, Shipshewana, first with 217.02; Bill Redding, Culter, second with 206.64; Larry Smith, LaPorte, third with 137.55; and Davis Williams, Middlebury, fourth with 130.74
• Senior women (20 min.) — Barbara Amiss, North Manchester, 128.18
• Youth boys (20 min.) — Travis Doan, Lakeville, first with 80.9; and Jackson Jones, Plymouth, second with 35.77
• Golden agers men (20 min.) — Larry Fervida, Nappanee, first with 211.8; Vern Dowty, Ossian, second with 189.22; Wayne Haggard, Ossian, third with 117; and Doyle Putman, Argos, fourth with 110.8
• Novice (20 min.) — Jane Hubner, LaPorte, 33
• Teams (five min. per contestant) — Larry Fervida (Nappanee), Clay Geyer (Bremen), Very Dowty (Ossian), and Craig Geyer (Bremen), first place with 202; Michael Minasik (Lakeville), Nick Rynearson (Lakeville), and Foster Davenport (Plymouth), second with 51.2; and Tom Crowel (Bremen), Terry Crowel (Granger), Bill Crowel (Bremen), and Beverly Hough (Lakeville), third with -47.9.

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