Christian’s CornStand Jam will remember Butler County man this weekend with RiversEdge event

Christian Unger used to sell fresh farm corn near Flub’s Dariette in Hamilton.

After Christian Unger died by suicide in 2019 at age 28, his family was devastated. But friends who were musicians approached them, wanting to do something in memory of the man known locally for selling farm-fresh corn from a stand in Hamilton since he was 12.

On Saturday, organizers will host the third annual Christian’s CornStand Jam from noon to 11 p.m. at the RiversEdge amphitheater in Hamilton’s Marcum Park.

The free event features five bands, and there will be food trucks, drinks, activities for kids, raffles and a silent auction.

The bands will be North 2nd Crew; Miss Jacque; The Inturns; Bunch James & the All Night Drivers; and Frech & Co.

Proceeds go to mental health awareness organizations and scholarships to local high schools. If the expected 2,000-3,000 people attend, “we will be the largest mental-health awareness event in Butler County,” said Christian Unger’s father, Jim. He estimates last year’s event attracted 1,500 people though the day.

Christian Unger started selling sweet corn from Burwinkel Farms in Ross at age 12 from a stand near the Flub’s Dariette each summer until his death.

“He loved doing it,” said Jim Unger, who lived in Ross Twp. at the time, but now lives in Hamilton. “It was a really good summer gig for him.”

Christian Unger played football and was a good wrestler at Ross High School, where he graduated in 2009. But many people knew him as “the kid who sold the corn,” who would put up his big yellow-and-burgundy sign that said “Ross Ohio Sweet Corn.”

“He had the most loving heart,” his father said about his kind son.

When Christian was 18, his father noticed he was acting differently and took him to the hospital, where he was admitted for about a week and diagnosed with schizophrenia.

“That’s when our world flipped upside-down,” Jim Unger said.

The family chose to share his diagnosis with family and friends, rather than hide the illness. A decade later, 18 days before his suicide, he bought a gun from a gun shop without his family’s knowledge. At the place on a form that asked about mental illness, “of course, he put ‘no,’ because he wanted the gun,” Jim Unger said.

“I just want people to come and lift up the people that are struggling,” Unger said about Saturday’s event. “That’s what I want most.”

“It’s always nice when people are supporting each other,” Kristen Smith of the Butler County Suicide Prevention Coalition said about the Unger family’s friends stepping forward.

There will be help for struggling people and their families. Among several organizations that will have tables at the event is NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness). Organizations will provide information about mental illness and suicide prevention.

Unger especially thanked the event’s executive producer, Monique “Mo” Runzer.

Jim Unger asks people to “just come out and support everyone who’s suffering with mental illness, and let’s support our loved ones who need our help and support.”

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