Misery, they say, loves company. But so do collectors - and that accounts for the success of the Corn Items Collectors Assn. CICA members enjoy nothing more than contact with fellow collectors, whether it's over the phone, via e-mail or face to face at a show. The group's spring regional, held in March at the Kenny Bush farm in Milan, Ill., was evidence of that.
More than 40 members attended from all over the Midwest, most bringing displays of corn items from their collections. Some members' collections are vast and comprehensive; others may have just one old relic. But all are welcome, and all enjoy the interaction and opportunity to learn about the category.
"We have an active, strong organization with widely scattered membership," says CICA Secretary/Treasurer Bob Chamberlain, Warrensburg, Ill. "It can be hard to get everyone together at the same time but there's a lot of communication among us. We talk over the phone and learn about new members and their collections, and help each other out. That's what gives our club some solidarity."
Formed 27 years ago, CICA promotes collection, restoration, preservation and display of corn-related items. The range of items stretches from matchbooks to implements and everything in between. Membership has held steady at just under 200 for several years, with the majority in the Midwest.
CICA members have a series of annual events, including shows at the I&I Antique Tractor & Gas Engine Club's Historic Farm Days, Penfield, Ill.; the Northern Indiana Power from the Past club show, Winamac, Ind.; Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. show, Portland, Ind.; and the Argyle Antique Gas Engine Assn. show, Colchester, Ill., which serves as the club's "founders' meeting." Several members also attend the Illinois corn husking competition (held this year in Roseville on Oct. 18). The spring regional, which often includes an auction, is held at a different location each year.
The focus, always, is on preservation of America's agricultural heritage. For instance, the club encourages members to consider ultimate disposition of their collections. "We want these items to stay with people who know what they are and care about them," Bob says. But there's plenty of good times mixed in. "Even though we might only see each other once or twice a year, it's like we're neighbors," Bob says. "Everybody sort of looks after everybody else. It's the kind of opportunity that doesn't exist for a lot of people."
For more information: The Corn Items Collectors Assn., http://www.cornitems.org Robert Chamberlain, 9288 Poland, Warrensburg, IL 62573; (217) 674-3334; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The rose may bloom for England
The lily for France unfold,
Ireland may honor the shamrock,
Scotland her thistle bold.
But the shield of the Great Republic,
The glory of the West,
Shall bear a stalk of tasseled corn,
Of all our wealth the best.
-verse on a piece of corn memorabilia from the collection of Bob Chamberlain, Warrensburg, Ill.