Arcola Broom Corn Festival by Michael Clark
Col. John Cofer planted the first field of Broom Corn in Arcola in 1859. By the end of the 19th Century Arcola found itself at the center of the broom corn industry. Broom corn was the primary crop grown in the area until the mid 1920s. Arcola remained home to some of the largest brokers involved in the broom corn trade, including Thomas Monahan. Titled as the “Broom Corn Capital of the world,” Arcola is still has significant ties to the industry. Thomas Monahan’s sons are still actively involved in the broom and brush industry today and were joined in 1956 by the Libman Company, producers of numerous household products including brooms and mops.
Every fall since 1972, the Broom Corn Festival has been celebrated in downtown Arcola. The Festival was a reincarnation of the former Homecoming Festival that had long been retired. Recognized by the Champaign News Gazette as Central Illinois’ Best Festival, crowds of 60,000 descend upon Arcola’s Main Street every year for the festival. Attendees enjoy the National Sweeping Contest on Friday, enjoy live entertainment, view over 150 vendors, run in the 5 and 10k races, enjoy the parade and a variety of other activities throughout the weekend.
Michael Clark was born and raised in Monmouth, IL and now calls Aledo home. He started painting signs in 1983 after his friend asked him to letter a truck. The artistic minded Clark purchased some brushes, supplies and a book from the Dick Blick art store in Galesburg. Since that time, Michael has expanded his artistic sign business and has created a number of pieces of fine art. In 1992, he joined a group called the “Letterheads,” which led to his early participation in Walldog meets. Since that time, Michael has been the project leader at numerous meets and was the event coordinator for the Western Illinois Wallbash meet in his hometown of Aledo in 2005.