First of all, I must admit: I’m a cornstar. I’ve always had a natural ability to sink the bean bag into the three-point hole across the stretch of grass when my team is in need of a victory. Counteracting each opposing bag on the board with a perfectly placed toss or strategically knocking a specific bag out of play, I have a keen judgment for the competitive sport of corn hole. A combination of a bean bag toss and horseshoes, this game is a common tailgating festivity.

corn hole

Photo by Tara Longardner

But I would like to raise the question: why corn? Why aren’t the bags filled with rice, or sand or any other material? What makes corn so special?

As I delved into this research, while simultaneously procrastinating an online quiz and contemplating a quick Chipotle run, I discovered intriguing  results.

corn hole

Photo by Tiare Brown

One source claimed that corn hole may have originated amongst Native American tribes who filled pig bladders with dried beans and played for entertainment. Another believes there may have been flying bean bags as early as the 1400s in Germany.  One source told the tale of a jolly, yet bored, Midwestern farmer named Jebediah who singlehandedly created the game in his barn as a means of passing time with his family and friends.

None of these sites (even the dedicated corn hole enthusiast pages), however, could answer my burning question as to why specifically corn is used in these games. That is, until I scrolled upon a shining light in the form of a “History of Corn Hole” link: my enlightenment in this Dark Age of adequate information on a tailgating classic.

corn hole

Photo by Bernard Wen

As I clicked and waited with bated breath, I discovered a story about several boys originally throwing rocks at a hole. Concerned for the safety of the players, the rocks were replaced with small burlap bags filled with corn. Corn prices soon rose dramatically in the area, so the popularity of the game declined. German immigrants to the US in the 1800s began playing again where corn was abundant.

Upon scanning these words on my screen, I was relieved to get to the bottom of this conundrum. I plan on using this information to take my corn hole tournament skills to the next level–with a matching visor and sweatbands too. Until then, happy tailgating, and all hail the corn!