Held since 1956, during the long weekend on or around the Fourth of July, this is the official celebration of Mark Twain, a Missouri native, and his creation, that restless little bugger, Tom Sawyer. The cornerstone of the National Tom Sawyer Days is the National Fence Painting Contest, which is now sanctioned by the United States Congress.
Many states around the nation hold local fence painting competitions throughout the year and send their winners to Hannibal for the 'World Series of Whitewashing.' Since 1964, the travel tab for the winning contestants from 10 neighboring states has been picked up by the Jaycees; other state's entries have to pay their own way. 10 to 13-year old Tom Sawyers are judged on costume, their painting speed and their painting accuracy. A $500 savings bond, prizes donated by local merchants and a trophy, which the winner must present to the governor of his home state, are awarded every year.
For all you over-the-hill Tom Sawyers, there's an adult fence painting contest as well. Another event is the very competitive Tom and Becky Contest, which is open only to Hannibal middle-schoolers. Semi-finalist look-alikes must pass two exams — one on Mark Twain and one on Hannibal — and get through a 15-minute interview. Throughout the year, 10 finalists must make appearances locally for the Chamber. We're talking upwards of 500 appearances! No one ever said being a Tom or a Becky was easy.
There are many other contests and games throughout the weekend, such as the Tomboy Sawyer Contest. Hannibal is soooo PC! This event is for all the Martha Dumptrucks of the world. The admission price is $1 per day.
The above article is just one of a collection of off-beat articles on 2Camels from Nelson Taylor's wonderful America Bizarro.
America Bizarro is a unique travel guide that celebrates humorously interesting, pop-culture kitschy and off-the-map odd festivals, out-of-the-way gatherings, kooky conventions, conferences and contests throughout the United States.