There are at least 6 towns or cities in the United States that have claimed the title “Popcorn Capital of the World”. Some of these localities tie this claim to fame into an annual festival. It seems that people always like to have a reason to celebrate and popcorn is an all-American, fun, healthy item to center a party around. Let’s take a quick look at the world popcorn capitals.
Most of the nation’s popcorn is grown in Nebraska and Indiana so it seems natural that two of the cities that have claimed this title are in Indiana. Valparaiso, Indiana has a large festival called The Popcorn Festival each year honoring Orville Redenbacher, a former resident who set up a popcorn factory there and participated in the annual parade most years until his death in 1995. Orville Redenbacher popcorn is a widely known brand of popcorn. Van Buren, Indiana also calls itself the Popcorn Capital of the World. The largest employer there is Weaver Popcorn Company and every August they hold the Popcorn Festival.
Only one town in Nebraska has had the popcorn capital title and apparently it no longer celebrates that title. At least I could not find any information about it. A flood in June 2010 did much damage to the town when a dam broke. Marion, Ohio also has had the popcorn capital title but unfortunately I could not find any history about it.
Another former title holder is Ridgway, Illinois. The popcorn plant is closed now. The first popcorn day was held in 1958. It continues to be celebrated as part of the Gallatin County Fair.
Schaller, Iowa was founded in 1879 as a station for the railroad as it was pushing west across the country. Throughout the mid-1900s a major industry for the town was packaging popcorn. Bango and Jolly Time were the two companies located there and this encouraged the townsfolk to take on the title “The Popcorn Capital of the World” but in the mid-1980s the companies moved to other locations.
The titles and festivals may have changed over the years but popcorn continues to be a very popular snack enjoyed by millions of people.