Top of the Morning, Sept. 12, 2023

By Chicago 3 Min Read

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T-shirts worn by relatives of the late Elsie Condarco.

Jim Rossow/The News-Gazette

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Elsie Condarco’s presence definitely was felt at the 52nd Arcola Broomcorn Festival.

Her daughter, Romana Smith, designed T-shirts in her honor that showed Mom doing what she loved to do: “Sweeping in the Sky. Forever in Our Hearts.”

Condarco was a regular at the annual sweeping contest, the traditional Friday kickoff to the festival. For more than 35 years, she could be found with broom in hand and eyes on the prize.

“She did not win every year,” Smith said, “but she never missed it.”

Condarco, 72, died of cancer in December. As a tribute, Smith and 17 other relatives showed up on Main Street wearing shirts that “everyone was happy to see.”

Arcola winners

Among those wearing tribute T-shirts: Maria Varga (middle), daughter of the late Elsie Condarco, who finished second in this year’s broom sweeping contest.


Condarco passed her love of sweeping to her four children. Another daughter, Maria Varga, finished second to Arcola Mayor Jesus Garza in a contest that drew a crowd of participants and fans.

The setting is what drew Condarco in the first place.

“She loved the thrill of it,” Smith said, “how anxious you get in those 45 seconds and the different techniques you use.

“Everyone in town knew my mom. So many people said they loved how we incorporated my mom into the (contest) this year even though she couldn’t physically be here.”

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Kelsi Stenger takes a picture as members of the Miss Arcola and Miss Broomcorn courts pose on Main Street at Friday’s Broomcorn Festival in Arcola. On Snapchat: tag along by searching for ‘News-Gazette’ on the app.

Jim Rossow/The News-Gazette

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Josh Kotowski takes part in Friday’s Broom Sweeping Contest on Main Street in Arcola. The fast-paced event helped kick off the annual Broomcorn Festival, which runs through Sunday and is highlighted by today’s 3 p.m. parade featuring the Lawn Rangers. Kotowski, who lives in Chicago, has made the trip to Douglas County to participate in every sweeping contest since joining the Lawn Rangers in 2005. Why the dedication? ‘It’s just Arcola,’ said Kotowski, who showed up in a ‘Broomcorn MVP’ T-shirt. ‘Every year, it’s a great time with good friends.’

Jim Rossow photos/The News-Gazette

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