More than 2,000 people turned out for the Sheriff’s 24th annual Corn Boilin’ on Monday, a record turnout for a non-election year.
Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren addressed the crowd from the Jim Miller Park stage as they enjoyed such Southern staples as corn on the cob, streak o’ lean and hoecakes.
“It’s a hot July day in Cobb County celebrating the 24th annual Corn Boilin’,” Warren said. “Thank you for being here. I love you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank y’all.”
Nathan Tippins of west Cobb said he’ll be happy if he doesn’t see another ear of corn for the next 12 months.
Tippins, son of state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), and other volunteers spent a good part of the day boiling 1,700 ears of corn in preparation for what has become the not-to-be-missed social event of the year.
“When we get it we’ve already shucked it down to the last two husks, and we boil it in the husk, and it’s ready to eat,” the younger Tippins explained. “We started cooking at 2 o’clock this afternoon, and it’s almost 6 o’clock, so we’ve been cooking non stop for four hours. We’re ready to do it next year, not before then.”
Among those in attendance was the Rev. Dr. Nelson Price, pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church, who shared his thoughts on what makes the event a special one.
“The unspoiled, down home feeling that is something that is rare to capture in this immediate day,” Price said. “It was the norm 30 years ago, and it’s refreshing now.”
Kevin Shrodes, a retired Cobb County Sheriff’s deputy who lives in Woodstock, said they cooked about 250 pounds of fatback for the evening.
“It’s salt pork,” Shrodes said. “It looks like bacon with a lot of fat. Some people call it streak o’ lean, and that’s because it only has a streak of lean in it.”
The salt pork is not easy to cook.
“We get it frozen, packed in salt,” Shrodes said. “And what we do is we wash it, we cut it into bite size pieces, kind of like long, thick slices of bacon, and then we wash a lot of the salt off it, we try to soak some of it off, we dry it and then we deep fry it.”
There was a discussion among the cooks about taking fatback off the menu a while back, but that didn’t go over very well when word leaked out, he said.
“It was almost a protest,” Shrodes said. “They’re like, ‘We want to keep the fatback.’ It’s a Southern tradition. It goes with the hoecakes.”
Attorney General Sam Olens of east Cobb was spotted at the serving table, handing out sliced onions.
“Apparently I didn’t write a big enough campaign check to the Sheriff, so he gave me onions,” Olens quipped.
Olens said his favorite part of the menu is the hoecakes.
“It’s like a fried pancake of corn and it tastes great,” Olens said.
There was not a run on the sliced onions, though, Olens said.
“No, it’s about (at) 20 percent,” he said.
Cobb Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs, a native of England, said they don’t have corn boilin’ gatherings where she comes from.
“We don’t even grow corn in England,” Grubbs said. “It doesn’t get hot enough to grow corn, but I love streak o’ lean. I could eat streak o’ lean all day.”
Former Congressman Bob Barr of Smyrna, who is running for the seat soon to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), said his favorite part of the menu is the ice cream sandwiches. Barr has been attending the event since it started.
“I think the fact that it’s really — even though there are a lot of candidates that come here — it’s not a political event, it’s an opportunity for thousands of people to come together, simply because they love our community,” Barr said. “There’s no special reason for it, but that’s what makes it so special, it’s just people coming together from the community that like to come together and support each other.”
Powder Springs Mayor Pat Vaughn said she’s attended for the last 17 years.
“I love the fried corn bread,” Vaughn said. “The cantaloupe was scrumptious tonight. Pinto beans are wonderful. It’s all very good down home cooking.”
Vaughn described the event as “a big family reunion.”
“I love it because of the people that I don’t normally see that I really care about, and they’re all drawn together tonight,” she said. “And if you notice everybody here tonight is happy. I’m a big fan of the Sheriff.”
Former Cobb Sheriff Bill Hutson and then-Chief Deputy Sheriff Warren held the first Corn Boilin’ at the home of Johnny Woodward in Powder Springs two decades ago. It grew from a crowd of 60 to the massive event it is today. During an election year as many as 2,300 turn out, said Nancy Bodiford, Warren’s spokeswoman.
In addition to being a fundraiser for the Sheriff, the event has also raised $170,000 for the Cobb Youth Museum. Located off Cheatham Hill Drive in Marietta, the Youth Museum is a nonprofit educational center that serves as an extension of the classroom, where elementary and middle school-aged students learn through such activities as puppet productions.