Friday, October 29, 2004

Corn Night

In Red Wing MN, where I grew up, the night before Halloween was known as "Corn Night".

Once, when I was in the third grade and had time to kill, I picked up Mrs. Blomme's Encyclopedias for some light reading. For some reason, I happened upon a section that explained the origins of not only Halloween, but Corn Night. Corn Night's original intent was for residents to roam their villages and throw corn at people's houses as a sign of protection from the spirits that would come a'visitin' on Halloween.

Corn Night's original intent in Red Wing was to give kids one night in their young lives to band together in mutiny and stick it to The Man by smashing pumpkins, overturning garbage cans, chucking various objects at people and their houses (preferably eggs if we didn't like you) and T-P'ing people's trees and lawn ornaments. It was awesome, especially if you had watched "Children Of The Corn" right before you traipsed out to join your neighborhood buddies.

However, according to People's Platform, Corn Night was not awesome. People's Platform was basically a feature in our daily newspaper where residents could call in to post comments, complaints, and questions. While it did have some use during the heated debate on what our high school colors should be (they had been purple and white for decades, but some Negative-Nancy started complaining that since our town is called Red Wing, we should have red as part of our school colors. After months of everyone and their mom giving their two cents on the subject and a school-wide vote, we resolved the dispute with purple and red with white as an accent color, and suddenly the world was right again), the bulk of the comments came from senior citizens calling to complain that their trash cans were blown down by the wind ("Something needs to be done about this!!") and people driving with their car stereos turned up too loud.

In the weeks leading up to Corn Night however, People's Platform was always barraged by lame-o adults calling for Corn Night to be abolished. Apparently, adults get really pissed when their unlocked cars get filled up with leaves (tee-hee!) and their doorbells get rung by some mysterious presence while they're trying to watch "Nightline".

And so the war began. Police ordered a 10:00pm curfew for all those under 18 on Corn Night; you were not allowed to buy eggs that night unless you were with a parent or were over 18 (smart kids like us bought our requisite three dozen the day before. Suck it, town council!); neighborhoods put together a patrol team to walk the streets in search of kids-up-to-no-good; and schools sent home notes warning parents to keep a close eyes on their childrens' activities that night.

Some of us more enlightened 12-yr olds were not surprised at these extreme measures. This is the same town that called five town meetings to discuss gang activity in Red Wing (someone was spotted down at the park wearing a red bandana on their head!), while all the kids knew that no one in their right mind would come down from the Twin Cities to live here, much less start up a chapter of the Bloods.

The thing that all of these adults didn't realize was that they were actually making Corn Night much more fun for all of us. Sneaking out of the house; running to the nearest cover; smashing eggs as quietly as you can against the window of the boy who didn't slow-dance with you at the last school bash; finding an unlocked car and filling it with leaves (aka, Brilliant Ideas By Amber L. Carter); playing ding-dong-ditch with the old man who keeps yelling at you to stop riding your ten-speed too fast; taking your neighbors' Jack-O-Lantern and adding it to the collection on your own steps (esp. if it was a really cool one)...all of it now took on a more dangerous and ultimately more exciting feel.

The adults wouldn't admit defeat, however, and to this day they are still trying to crack down on those dangerous 11 year old criminals. They have also banned baseball caps and bulky jackets in school, too, because you can hide guns in them (and really, hiding a gun under a baseball cap is the first thing those Red Wing gangs want to do when they're planning on shooting someone). But they can't kill Corn Night. As long as there are eggs, toilet paper, and kernals of corn, it will always live on as the one night when kids can band together in solidarity and fight those damn lame-o's. Middle schoolers, UNITE!


6 comments:

  1. good work, amber!!! :) as a fellow red winger, i appreciate your blog and LOVE the comments about "The Man" never stopping corn night.

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  2. Hey, thanks for posting that...you answered all the questions this not-native-to-Red-Winger had about Corn night, and a whole lot more I never knew! My daughter went out for her first ever corn night last night and had a blast! And the only mischief we got was someone painting "Corn Night 2008" in car-finish-friendly paint on the back of my truck.

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  3. your blog about Corn Night was just posted on my facebook. all these years, and nobody told me it was just a Red Wing thing. no wonder the cops didn't understand what i was talking about. well, "keep on keepin' on" (a bob dylan quote. i like bob dylan, but U2, eh, i can see what you mean...)
    ted roseen.

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  4. What a nice surprise to find so many comments from people familiar with Red Wing/Corn Night!!!

    JustPeachy, I'm glad your daughter had a blast on her first Corn Night! For some of us, it was a bigger night than even Halloween. I kind of wish it was a worldwide thing, though...sometimes I think we need a little bit more reason to run the streets in mischief and mayhem.

    TED! I remember you well from high school...and congratulations on your recent City Pages recognition!

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  5. Ha! Love it! I graduated from RW in 1978...
    Let corn night LIVE!

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  6. Lived in Red Wing from 1985-1991 and just found this post by googling "corn night." At first I was blown away to discover it was just a Red Wing thing, but now I'm blown away because I ALSO had Mrs. Blomme and distinctly remember reading her set of encyclopedias during rainy lunch periods...are you me?

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Hopefully it will work out in your favor.

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