Does it bother you the first letter of each word in the phrase “King Korn Karnival” spells out”KKK” and if it does, are you willing to help create a change? Or should I say: “khange?”

Since 1932 the Kass Kounty King Korn Karnival Klub (forget for a moment all but five of those words are properly spelled with a “C” and not a “K”) has been an annual celebration in Cass County, Nebraska and most of the people around there winkingly shorten the name to “King Korn Karnival.”

This year, Plattsmouth resident Mary Berner, is standing up and trying to get the name of the festival changed to something less offensive. She is not making much headway in that effort because people like Korn Klub president Esther Kahler DeRosia want to keep the name for “historical reasons.” One cannot claim, in our current world, that “King Korn Karnival” and its KKK initials are not racially offensive.

One of the problems of small town living is a small-minded provincialism that can harm a community’s core in the world by honoring a misbegotten past. If you dare to visit the Imperial Klans of America – Knights of the Ku Klux Klan website and scroll down to the bottom of the page you will see “comment” is spelled “Komment” and “corner” is spelled “Korner.” It is the tradition of the KKK to replace a “C” with a “K” and, like it or not, that is precisely what the “King Korn Karnival” is imitating.

The KKK have been around since 1865 so Cass County cannot claim their original 1932 “Kass Kounty King Korn Karnival Klub” does not historically echo the “Ku Klux Klan” method of naming. If you would like to help support Mary’s effort to change “King Korn Karnival” to something less racist, please visit the Plattsmouth Chamber of Commerce website and click on the “Contact Us” link and let them know why the “King Korn Karnival” is not only bad for business but how it also transgresses the spirit of humankind.


  1. I sent them an email asking about the kurious KKK konnection with their festival name.
    I asked them to reconsider their decision in naming to find something more amicable to all people of the world.

  2. Heya soos!
    Thanks for sending in that note! I appreciate it and they will appreciate it more in the long run.
    Bringing pressure of a cognizant and sensitive world down upon Cass County is the only way this sort of necessary change will happen.

  3. I sent them a note, too. Sometimes people don’t realize the big picture until it is presented to them in a larger context. Hope it helps; if not now; then next year.

  4. Dave!
    You are so funny you make me laugh out loud!
    I think you should send your “Plattsmouth Porn Pornival” idea to the Plattsmouth Chamber of Commerce immediately! Harr! 🙂

  5. Omigawd!
    I can’t believe you actually did that, Dave!
    I’m so glad you did that, Dave!
    I think I love you! Bwa-ha-harr! 🙂
    We’ll just keep rubbing them from all directions!

  6. Kustom Kar Kulture is another one. I bought a t shirt with that on it and donated it to good will after i noticed what it spelled. You can get killed in my neighborhood for wearing something like that. I googled it how ever and it is a legitamite car club

  7. Hey blueskelton —
    Yikes! What an awful shirt and it would get me killed in my neighborhood, too.
    You should have burned that shirt to kill it forever instead of donating it to Goodwill! 🙂

  8. Due disclosure: I am the grandson of one of the two initial founders of the festival under discussion. I was born and grew up in Massachusetts, but visited eastern Nebraska (Plattsmouth) extensively in my youth. Adjust your digestion of this long-winded post accordingly.
    One of the prerequisites for effective social commentary (and even more so for any social change intended to grow out of such commentary), is having a basic grasp on the historical facts and context. The Plattsmouth festival currently named the Kass Kounty King Korn Karnival began in October 5-8, 1932 as the “Corn Festival,” something a cursory check with the Cass County Historical Society in Plattsmouth (who are currently running an exhibit on the history of the festival) would confirm. From a brochure accompanying that first festival:
    “This is a CORN FESTIVAL–appropriately so called because this is the Corn season and further because in this locality is grown the finest corn in the world. We are honoring King Corn with 4 days of Fun, Frolic and Clean Amusement, to which we cordially invite all our friends.”
    Among the second-and third generation German, Scandanavian, and Bohemian immigrant residents of Plattsmouth and the surrounding communities, the notion of a King Korn, in addition to being a playful respelling, hearkened back to the not-too-distant Germanic, Norse and Celtic folk traditions of their immediate ancestors surroundng harvest-times and harvest dieties–corn dollies, Lud, John Barleycorn and the like.
    It was not until its second year (1933) that the Corn Festival became the “Kass Kounty King Korn Klub Karnival.” In 1934, the festival theme was first set forth: “The corn Festival has but one purpose and that is to cement a spirit of contnud good will and county-wide friendship while providing entertainment for everyone.”
    In 1935 the festival saw the first crowning of a King Korn and a Queen Harvesta. In 1946, the festival name was shortened to its current form.
    Does all this mean there is no historical connection between the festival’s name and the KKK? Nope, it does not. There may well have been such a connection, though it is likely to a best have been sidelong. The KKK and much of its racist ‘nativist’ ideology had a real presence in eastern Nebraska in the 1920s-30s, and the initials of the festival may well have in part served a double wink-and-nod purpose at the time. Only actual historical research (as opposed to casual inference from the confluence of lettering) will tell. So far as I know, no one has done that research. Certainly no one posting here seems to have.
    But even if it were proved beyond a doubt that there is some link between the naming of this festival to feature an excess of Ks and the Ku Klux Klan, that does not effectively argue for changing the name.
    Despite the continued participation of a few sad and diminished souls, the KKK has no real force or meaning in the lives of Americans any longer. Like the Nazis, the KKK has shrunk to to the role of convenient bad example–just how stupid and venal people can be.
    One of the most important things we must do in response to noxious history is to preserve it for posterity–to keep it around to remind us of our potential for error. Removing all potential offensive historical references falls into the same category of foolishness which leads some people to try to ban Huckleberry Finn from high schools because of its racist language (this despite the fact that Twain was deliberately using that language to demonstrate the casual and banal racism of the characters in his remarkable and seminal American story).
    If there is anything we must avoid, it is a bland and ‘cleansed’ historical landscape, absent any warnings to pass on to our children. Why else do we still build new Holocaust memorials? To keep the memory of grotesque human error right there in our faces, so that we cannot forget.
    Changing the name of the Kass Kounty King Korn Karnival runs the POTENTIAL risk (despite all the self-serving outrage, nobody really knows if any KKK connection really exists) of removing an important reminder of what we must under no circumstances allow to happen again. And that would be a profoundly dumb thing to do, wouldn’t it?
    If anybody is looking for something genuinely progressive to do, go stand outside the embattled abortion clinic in Bellevue every weekend for the next few years. Defend it from the divinely-inspired lackwits trying so persistently to shut it down. That would be a tangible, current action that would directly influence the quality of people’s lives. Arguing about how may Ks are okay to have in the acronym for a corn festival seems kind of feeble and safe in comparison.

  9. Jonathan Tucker —
    Thank you for your side of the festival naming issue.
    I am disappointed that modifying a name that is easily interpreted as “KKK” with all its inerasable meanings warrants such a long-winded and spirited defense of an indefensible position.

  10. Dear Mr. Boles:
    You are welcome. The back of a hand will have to do, I suppose, when no other side of the hand is available.
    You mistake or misrepresent my position. I was not defending anything having to do with the Ku Klux Klan, an inexcusable organization filled with inexcusable people believing inexcusable things.
    I was defending the retention of the name of a specific historic festival. Neither you nor anyone else here has any evidence connecting that festival with the KKK. Nor do I, and I am in a somewhat better position to know. I do not discount utterly the possibility of a connection, but none has been demonstrated to exist. Only a clear connection between the festivaaa and the KKK might serve as the basis for the beginning of an argument to change the festival’s name. I would still probably argue against it for the reasons previously stated, but the argument would at least be about something real.
    The fact that someone might construe the abbreviation of the full acronym for the festival (KKKKK) to be a reference to the Ku Klux Klan is a matter of concern, but one that falls under my previous argument about what we do with history that bothers us. We keep it, we put it on exhibit, we put labels and muti-media narrative around it, we talk about it, we learn from it, and we avoid repeating any mistakes it contains.
    The fact that someone might be offended by the mere existence of three Ks strung together is not a basis for anything, much less changing the nearly 70-year old name of a festival. As Americans, we are not promised or guaranteed emotional comfort. We are promised only the opportunity to pursue happiness. If we are discontented with aspects of our history, then we should work to make new history that overwhelms and renders toothless any power thet bad old history might have. What we do not do is strive to erase painful history from our presence in order to increase our comfort. That, it seems to me, is the more indefensible position.

  11. I’m glad you understood my argument–that’s progress. But in disagreeing with it, you neglected to respond to any of it. There’s little meaning or value in saying, “Yeah, but you’re wrong,” multiple times.
    How am I wrong? What don’t you “buy”?
    You’ve represented a situation and asked people to take specific actions–to invest something of themselves–on the basis of your representation of what’s actually going on, and what’s right and wrong. I’ve challenged some aspects of that representation, and proposed an alternative way of looking at the issue. Those reading these posts will make up their own minds. Our relative willingness to explain and defend our positions may be a factor in those decisions.

  12. I don’t find anything in your long comments that requires a response because you are setting up Straw Man arguments to fog the issues I brought up in my original post.
    This will be the last comment between us on the issue because it is getting repetitive.

  13. You’re right. Changing the name of the Kass Kounty King Korn Karnival would do nothing to alter its history, whatever that history may have been. And what is done from here on is up to the officiating organization and the citizens of Plattsmouth whose festival it is.
    “Cleansing history” is a convenient but inadequate shorthand for my argument about the need to preserve uncomfortable history in our collective interest. Preserving unsavory history is the opposite of offering an “excuse” for any possible past transgressions associated with this festival or for current/future discomfort that may be caused by a abbreviation of its full acronym. Making sure that any evidence or inference of past KKKs in our midst is kept and used as a reminder of what errors to avoid is instead one of the most important ways we prevent the potential KKKs or their like in our future.
    Beyond a vague reference to evolving social acceptibility, you haven’t said why you think this argument is wrong. Thankfully, the Ku Klux Klan and its ideologies are no longer acceptable. But what does that have to do with how we respond to its symbology in this instance? As you correctly point out, any argument needs to be accompanied by reasons. Let’s hear them.
    Beyond “it makes me uncomfortable,” what are your reasons for changing the name of this festival, and why are they more important than the reasons that have been cited for keeping it?

  14. I was born in 1952, when Harry Truman was President. Lynching was still a spectator sport in some parts of the south. I remember racist candies and movies (Hattie Daniels, Stepin Fetchit, etc.), Jim Crow laws and coon jokes and casual racist terminology (“niggerheads” for clumps of swamp grass, for instance), and all of the deliberate and unconscious racism that was part of daily life in America then. Such examples of direct and intentional injury, and their casual cultural confectionary offspring have disappeared through sustained conscious effort, not by the unconscious erosion of changing habits.
    But you have made no connection between those past examples of active (if sometimes unconscious) racism and what happens when people mistakenly shorten the acronym for the Kass Kounty King Korn Karnival. Where is there an active, current racist intent in that name that requires your energetic challenge? How is retaining the name of a corn festival equivalent to bringing back actively racist practices like separate but unequal water fountains?
    Throwing a bunch of examples of bad old behavior into the air along with a couple of handfuls of sarcasm is only the equivalent of saying, “They should change the name because these bad things used to happen, and this name might remind us of them.” That’s why I attributed your disagreement to discomfort–because you gave no other reason. You still haven’t.

  15. I just recently moved to Plattsmouth. And am learning more and more. I do not understand why we “have” to carry this name. And although this is not the issue here, I don’t understand why we are the Blue Devils, either. Does this town really have to be so morbid?

  16. Dave:
    At long last. Reasons, and pretty good ones, too.
    Let me see if I can accurately summarize them (in quotes) and then respond to them in turn:
    #1. “The acronym for the festival is potentially offensive and insensitive–particularly to people of color–and on that basis threatens the viability of the festival as a whole.”
    This is probably your strongest case. What it comes down to is a balancing of those two negatives–potential offense and long-term social reaction–against two positive values of the name: 1) the strong local precedent and historical tradition, and 2) the need, whether there was ever any connection to the KKK or not, to retain reminders of past mistakes–in this case, inforgiveable racism–in our surroundings to ensure that we avoid repeating those mistakes in the future.
    I think you know where I’m going to fall on this. If it were my festival (and it’s not), I would deeply regret any pain or offense anyone might experience because the festival’s acronym reminded them of a once-terrifying racist organization (think SS for people of Jewish ancestry). But the intertwined imperatives to preserve history for its own sake and to ensure that we prevent any repeat of the same mistakes in the future override any brief, incidental emotional pain or offense someone might experience just by being reminded of past horrors. It is more important that we ensure those horrors never return.
    The avoidance of emotional pain or offense is a profoundly unstable and unsound basis for any kind of public action or policy. De Toqueville warned against mistaking social comfort for real security and civic soundness. Again, as Americans, we are not promised or guaranteed emotional comfort. We are promised only the opportunity to pursue happiness. If we are offended or hurt by references to bad old history, then we should work to make new history that supercedes that old history. But what we must not do is try to erase all reminders of painful history from our presence in order to increase our comfort.
    The Kass Kounty King Korn Karnival has never been and does not yet appear to be an event that actively seeks out large corporate sponsorship of the sort whose support might depend on some finely-tuned balance of PC blandness developed by tables full of tut-tutting consultants and lawyers. It is a genuinely local event–locally created, locally run, locally sponsored. It is the kind of event theoretical progressives talk about the need to support and protect (but rarely themselves create or help to sustain). This festival belongs to the people of Plattsmouth, not the public relations arms of big box retailers or regional banking consortiums. That seems to me a good thing.
    #2. “The deliberate mis-spelling with Ks instead of Cs is painfully hokey and the humor it represents is outdated and embarassing. It runs the risk of giving the impression that local residents are ignorant people by reinforcing rural stereotypes. That, too, poses a threat to the long-term viability of the festival.”
    To whom is the mis-spelling embarassing–the denizens of a bulletin board entitled “Urban Semiotics: Where Blood and Bone Render Meaning in the City Core”? Are those folks really qualified to pass judgement on the sense of humor (historical, at that) of the residents of a small rural community (however diverse and funky)? I’d like to suggest that such judgements are suspect, and to further suggest–gently–that living current bigotry comes in forms in addition to racism. It includes bigotries of economic class, educational level, work culture, and other indices of social difference. For someone so concerned about the giving of offense, you seem strangely carefree with it.
    Some humor can be so old and so bad that it’s good again–style in humor, like clothing and everthing else, comes around again and again eternally. But this objection does raise an interesting question about the changing demographics in Plattsmouth as the noisome fungus of metropolian sprawl from Omaha spreads south, and brings with it suburban vs. rural/newcomers vs. old-timers culture wars. A sad prospect.
    In the end, the question is, whose festival is this? While I’m sure you would be welcomed there with open arms, Dave, for the time being it doesn’t belong to you.

  17. Dear Jennifer:
    If I may say so from the considerale distance of Massachusetts, I am delighted you have moved to Plattsmouth–both from my childhood memories and a recent visit, it is a delightful town. Keep on “learning more and more,” including the history of the community and the background of its people. Suspend judgment about the ‘surface features’ of the community until you’ve got some information and experience under your belt, and know the people better. I recommend the Cass County Historical Society and the Main Street Program office downtown as wonderful sources of information.
    Incidentally, by complete coincidence, the high school teams of my small county seat in western Massachusetts are also named the Blue Devils. The name refers to a famous group of blue-clad French soldiers in WWI who were admired by U.S. doughboys for their spirit and fighting ability. History explains a lot, if you let it hang around long enough to learn from it.

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