The bucolic majesty of the festival beauty queen is one of small-town America's enduring pleasures. But not in North Ridgeville, where Corn Queens had been crowned since the 1979 Corn Festival. Over the years, the rigors of suburban royalty had taken their toll, and the city threw flowers at the feet of its last Corn Queen in 1991.
"It was just a big nuisance, so we decided not to do it anymore," explains Jo-Ell Jacobson, Corn Festival board president since 1987. "With them being juveniles, we do not have access to their police records, and some of the queens that got it shouldn't have."
Corn Queen obligations were another sticking point. Like most festival queens, Miss Maize was bound by her title to represent North Ridgeville at other area festivals, clocking face time at a minimum of 16 celebrations a year. But Corn Queens found many excuses not to go -- and many ways to slip off with their boyfriends when they did.
"We had some really great girls, but we just got to the point where the aggravation was too much," Jacobson says. "They wanted the fanfare and beauty of that weekend, but they didn't want to do what we needed them to do."
So for the last decade, the fanfare has been reserved for recipients of the Golden Kernel Award, which honors citizens who "do a lot behind the scenes," but don't generally get recognized. This year's winners are Raymond and Loyola Diederich, the seventysomething grandchildren of the man who started Diederich Florists, a North Ridgeville institution since 1923.
"Golden Kernel Award winners are so appreciative and so excited," Jacobson says. "A lot of the people that we nominated were older people that never got anything in the city."
Now they get their names on a marble plaque along the town gazebo's Corn Walk -- and for one magical weekend, they are celebrities and parade marshals. Anything beyond that, and the award may become a burden.