Who can turn down an offer of freshly popped popcorn drizzled with butter and sprinkled with a dash of salt?
The good news is that you don’t have to when you visit the 157th Indiana State Fair, under way now at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis and continuing through Aug. 18.
The 2013 theme is “Year of Popcorn” and is presented by Weaver Popcorn Co. of Van Buren. From seeing the world’s largest popcorn ball and popcorn made in many flavors to winding their way through a popcorn maze, visitors will get their fill of their favorite snack.
Weaver Popcorn was founded in 1928 in Indiana by the Rev. Ira Weaver. According to the state fair program, Weaver shucked and bagged his own popcorn and delivered it to his customers in a horse-drawn carriage. Today, the fourth-generation-owned company’s popcorn is still grown in the Hoosier state and surrounding Midwest states.
Weaver Popcorn remains a family-owned business while providing 30 percent of the world’s popcorn and distributing to more than 90 countries around the world.
Indiana is ranked second — Nebraska is first — in popcorn production in the United States, thanks to farmers like brothers Ed and Mark Shew. They no-till 2,650 acres of land in Vigo, Parke and Vermillion counties, including 1,150 acres of soybeans and 650 acres of corn, with the balance of 900 acres planted in popcorn provided by Weaver. The land they plant in popcorn is leased to them by Garrett Pendergast, whose late father, Lyman, bought the farm in 1945 in northern Vigo County. The Shews began contracting to plant popcorn on Pendergast’s farm for Weaver in 1986.
“Our grandpa and then our dad, Stan, and his brother, Ray, had grown popcorn from 1950 to ’86 for Blevins, and then Ellis Popcorn in West Terre Haute,” Ed said. “Weaver started to expand [its] popcorn acreage and number of growers in the mid-1980s, so we contacted their fieldman and discussed the options. We’ve been with them ever since.”
Weaver has also used the Pendergast ground several times for test plots over the years, Garrett said. “They are fanatics about quality and excellent to work with. They send people to inspect the fields several times a year for rates of growth. Weaver dictates many aspects of the production process, like which chemicals or insecticides we can use, and they work with us on any problem or concern.”
Weaver provides the seed, but Mark said specialty crops like popcorn have to be grown under special conditions, and it takes more effort to do it. “We have to clean augers and combines in between beans and corn, so we can’t just switch from one to the other because of quality issues.”
While most corn grown in fields might look like it could be used for popcorn or sweet corn, there are actually several types of corn that can be grown by farmers.
Most corn grown is field corn, which is used for livestock feed.
Sweet corn is what consumers can eat fresh from their gardens, a farm market or purchase from a grocery.
Corn grown and used for popping can actually go directly from field to stove or microwave, but when you purchase it from a store, is has been further cleaned for consumption, packaging and shipping.
“There are three categories of popcorn and there can be different varieties in a category,” Mark said. “The categories are concession, which is the big fluffy popcorn found in movie theaters,; microwave; and caramel corn, which pops up in a ball shape, which has less surface area, so it does not take as much caramel or syrup to cover it.”
Mark also said Weaver was a supplier to familiar popcorn names such as Jiffy Pop, Cracker Jack and Act II until about 10 years ago, when Weaver also began marketing for itself under the name Pop Weaver. The company has also been making Trail’s End popcorn products for more than 30 years, partnering with the Boy Scouts of America to help scouts raise more than $2 billion to fund their yearly programs and activities. Fairgoers can purchase the Trail’s End Popcorn during the state fair at the Boy Scouts Legacy Bridge and Shelter site on the east side of the fairgrounds.
Growing popcorn has its perks, Ed said. “I take ears of popcorn to the kindergarten classes at Central Elementary School in Clinton every year because the kids like shelling the ears and popping it up for snacks during the school year.” Garrett also gives 250 to 300 pounds of popcorn to Ryves Hall in Terre Haute to be used as snacks for the after-school program.
Perhaps Ed’s favorite popcorn perk happened when he gave a 50-pound bag of popcorn to his late first wife, Carol, while she was in college. “I thought she would like it for snacks, and her roommates said, ‘This is great, you better keep this guy!’”
The Shew brothers and Pendergast are grateful to be part of the 90-plus popcorn growers in Indiana. “We’re glad Weaver is the state fair sponsor.” Mark said. “I think it’s great that two huge food companies — Weaver and Red Gold — are right here in Indiana. “
Susan Hayhurst is a freelance writer from Vigo County, where she and her husband operate a farm. She has served on the Indiana State Fair Commission since 2005. Hayhurst is writing stories from the 2013 Indiana State Fair for the Tribune-Star.
157th edition of the State Fair shines light on Indiana’s global crop by showcasing ‘The Year of Popcorn’
Who can turn down an offer of freshly popped popcorn drizzled with butter and sprinkled with a dash of salt?
- Local & Bistate
65,000 chickens die in rural Indiana fire
WARSAW, Ind. (AP) — Thousands of chickens have been killed in a fire on a northern Indiana farm.
One person hospitalized after parking lot pile-up
A woman was hospitalized with injuries after an accident late this morning in the Baesler’s Market parking lot.
Indiana teachers worry about revamped ISTEP test
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana teachers are heading back to classrooms starting this week and face the daunting task of preparing students for a standardized test that’s been retooled three times since 2009.
‘Test jury’ gauged in Indianapolis home blast case
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors and attorneys for one of the suspects in a deadly Indianapolis house explosion have begun assessing whether they can find an impartial jury to hear the case.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 28, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, based on jail records.
Old National strengthens position with Grand Rapids-based Founders Bank & Trust pending acquisition
Evansville-based Old National Bancorp and Grand Rapids-based Founders Financial Corp. jointly announced today the execution of a definitive agreement under which Old National will acquire Founders through a stock and cash merger.
Conservation officers investigate death at Cataract Falls
Indiana Conservation officers are investigating the death of an Ohio man that occurred at about 4:10 p.m. Sunday, July 27, at Cataract Falls State Recreation Area in Owen County.
Postcards from the war front
A native of France, Marie Decleir saw humanity at its worst as she experienced the death and destruction caused by World War I, which began 100 years ago today.
Watching Gordon make history
As race car drivers competed on the track on Sunday in Indianapolis, racing fans in Terre Haute gathered around television screens and watched history unfold during the “Crown Royal Presents, The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard.”
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Inept amid partisan fury
Retired Congressman Lee Hamilton has warned of the perils of political ideology, calling the body where he spent 34 years “noxiously partisan.” Now, he worries the divide is downright dangerous.
Restaurant Inspections: July 28, 2014
Travel the interstate at your own risk.
Report: City‘s general fund to remain in red
The city’s general fund balance on June 30 remained deep in the red, even after Terre Haute received its twice-yearly property tax check from the state.
Interns, getting foot in the door, bring diversity to workplace
Shanya Tompkins interviewed with Coldwell Banker-Troy Helman Realtors, anticipating an eight-week, part-time summer internship.
Everybody get up and dance now
National Dance Day promotes dancing as part of a healthy, active lifestyle.
Man arrested after rollover kills teen girl
A Terre Haute man has been arrested and a teenager has died following an alcohol-related accident early today.
Sylvia Ann Adamson longed for privacy, so she invented a solution to that problem at “Camp Invention.”
Riley lion’s roar goes global
Linda L. Tincher has become the first woman from Indiana elected to serve as an international director for Lions Clubs International. She was chosen earlier this month during the clubs’ 97th international convention in Toronto, Canada.
Hundreds of people gathered at Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium on Friday for a night of baseball, music, the “Green Man” and green shades.
Residents ‘stuff the bus’ with pencils, notebooks, backpacks
After exiting a Wal-Mart store in Clinton, Roger E. Richardson stopped his shopping cart Friday in front of a large yellow South Vermillion School Corporation bus.
Man faces 9 charges in homicide case
A Solsberry man faces nine criminal charges related to a July 18 homicide and rape in rural Greene County.
UPDATE: Rockville man dies after head-on collision
A Rockville man has died from injuries he sustained this afternoon in a two-vehicle, head-on crash on U.S. 41 north of Lyford.
Head-on crash leaves Rockville man seriously injured
A Rockville man was air-lifted to an Indianapolis hospital with serious injuries this afternoon following a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 north of Lyford.
Vigo County Jail Log: July 25, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.
Measles case confirmed in Central Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials have confirmed a case of measles in Central Indiana. The Indiana State Department of Health is working with local health departments and health care providers to identify additional cases of measles, and to prevent further transmission of the disease.
Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands
CHICAGO (AP) — Fast food workers say they’re prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers will discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years.
4 doctors arrested after Indiana clinic raids
CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Authorities say four doctors have been arrested on charges of improperly prescribing a drug used to treat painkiller addiction from several Indiana offices.
Holiday World plans new winged roller coaster
SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (AP) — The Holiday World amusement park in southern Indiana is building a new $22 million roller coaster that it says will launch riders to 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds, with a 14-story loop and four inversions.
Indianapolis pulls future support for Amtrak line
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — City officials in Indianapolis have cast the future of an Amtrak passenger line between Indianapolis and Chicago into doubt after deciding not to provide any additional money to subsidize that line.
Pence leading annual governor’s motorcycle ride
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence is leading the annual governor’s motorcycle ride from the Statehouse through southern Indiana.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- 65,000 chickens die in rural Indiana fire