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On The Light Side

September 10, 1988

ARCOLA, Ill. (AP) _ It’s time for a clean sweep in this east-central Illinois town - and in most places, say promoters of the annual Broomcorn Festival in the self- proclaimed Broomcorn Capital of the World.


The stuff that brooms are made of - actually a form of sorghum.

And it doesn’t last forever.

″People always say, ‘I’ve got to buy a new broom,’ but they don’t,″ said Alvin Winger, whose Warren Broom Co. - one of seven broom makers around this town of 2,700 - has been in business since 1900.

″You can’t do much with an old broom except sweep rocks off the driveway,″ he said.

So the highlight of this year’s festival is a broom-burning - come one, come all. Those who chuck a broom into a bonfire today receive a discount on a new one.

The fiery event has a message: A new broom sweeps clean.

″Take a look at a new broom. The straws are split into little feathery ends. That’s what picks up the dust and dirt,″ said William Libman, whose family owns Libman Broom Co., the biggest of the area producers.

Brooms provide 250 jobs in the broomcorn capital, although much of the broomcorn - which must be hand-harvested - is imported from Mexico.

Arcola goes all out to celebrate its industry. In addition to the bonfire, the three-day festival ending Sunday features a parade, a miniature corn palace, broom-making demonstrations, folk crafts and country cooking. It has drawn as many as 50,000 visitors in past years, said spokesman Daniel J. Hines.


BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) - A bull that wandered from its new owners’ farm sauntered through a city neighborhood before stopping to munch apples from one of Fred Schense’s trees.

Schense was repairing a thermometer outside his home Thursday when he encountered the stray animal. ″I glanced up and then it dawned on me, ’Hey, that’s not a common critter, there’s a bull coming through the yard,‴ he recalled.

The bull knocked down part of a fence belonging to the animal’s owners, the Sidney Wright family, and walked about a mile before stopping to partake of Schense’s apples, said animal control officer Reginald Grant.

Grant and fellow officer Joanne Waite roped the bull and tied it to the apple tree. The Wrights took it back to pasture in a trailer.

″Luckily, the critter was quite tame,″ Schense said. ″He was pretty peaceful through the whole thing. You could walk up to it. I even mooed at him a couple times, you know.″

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