Brooklyn braces for a (small) invasion of the Cobbers
An eccentric Midwestern college tradition comes to Brooklyn Bridge Park
The mascot of Concordia College is a giant walking ear of corn (snarling but friendly), wearing green corn husks for trousers. The institution’s motto is “Fear the Ear!”
That should be enough to let Brooklynites know that Concordia is not your typical college, and that it is located far, far away from our fair city.
Now, however, a tiny bit of Concordia is coming to Brooklyn.
Every summer, thousands of Concordia alumni gather across the United States for events known as Corn Feeds — and this Sunday one will be held in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
For those not up on Concordia traditions, corn feeds involve bushels of corn, covered dishes, lemonade, music, prizes, games and reminiscences.
Concordia is a Lutheran, liberal arts college in Moorhead, Minnesota. (A different college with the same name is located in Westchester, New York.) Legend has it that the college was surrounded by a cornfield in its early days, but the institution’s founder denied that.
So how did this whole corn thing come to be?
Representatives from the college sent the Brooklyn Eagle a history which explained that in the early 1890s students from Hope Academy, a Swedish Lutheran school and rival to the Norwegian-based Concordia, slurred Concordia’s coeds with the name “corn cobs.”
Things really heated up as Hope students fired off Swedish taunts at their rivals, such as the irksome:
Hva’ ska’ Ni Ha?
Lutefisk and lefse —
Yah! Yah! Yah!”
(Corncobs, corncobs, what will you have? Lutefisk and lefse — Ya! Yah! Yah!)
After a few fistfights with their rivals, Concordians decided to embrace the starchy carbohydrate and eventually began calling themselves “Cobbers.” (The name-calling ended for good after Hope Academy folded, and many Swedish students began attending Concordia.)
Today, “Kernel” is the name of the school’s snarling corn mascot. “Zea Mays,” taken from the scientific name for corn, is the name of the dance team. A lunchroom and student lounge in the Knutson Campus Center is named “The Maize.” The “Korn Krib” is a shop in the campus center that sells t-shirts and snacks.
And Cobber Corn Feeds, which kicked off in 1974, have become an annual tradition throughout the country. The school says the Feeds “allow Concordia students, alumni and friends to renew friendships, make new acquaintances and learn more about what is currently happening at the college.”
The school’s press office told the Eagle, “Anyone is welcome to attend our corn feed! If people run across us in the park, they are more than welcome to join the fun!”
Not so fast, says co-host Eric George (’11), who is putting together the NYC Corn Feed with KatyAnna Johnson (’08).
George envisions that their Feed will be “more of an informal picnic, rather than the full-out Corn Feed [that] alumni host in the Midwest.
“Based on the amount of alumni in the region, we submitted our permit envisioning approximately 30 to 50 people will attend,” he said.
George told the Eagle that he and Johnson decided to host the NYC Corn Feed “because we have fond memories of the Corn Feeds back in the Midwest and to connect with the growing alumni base in NYC.”
How will the pair manage a Corn Feed in a park packed with tens of thousands of people?
“Unlike the traditional Corn Feeds where volunteers cook the corn on site, we ordered prepared corn given the challenges of preparing and cooking corn in a public park on a busy weekend!” George said.
So to be clear, the tens of thousands of park visitors who may run across this party on Sunday are not going to eat corn — but they may enjoy a nice summer day in the park.
Concordia enthusiasts and alumni who wish to attend, RSVP via email to [email protected]
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