Jeri’s Jackpot: The Hobo National Convention

   Here it is as promised. A long while ago, I made a pact with my coworkers that I would write an article about the Hobo Festival at some point in the Jeri’s Jackpot catalog. The time has come and here it is the magnificent, the amazing, Hobo Festival article!

   Since 1900, on every second week of August in Britt, Iowa, tramps, hobos and bums from around the world gather for the Hobo National Convention.

   The term “hobo” has always been surrounded by negative connotations. For instance, people tend to associate hobos not as a working-class American who travels by choice, but as a homeless, dirty person who lives on the street and made nothing of themselves.

   When asked what a hobo is, most people answer with “an average homeless person, a beggar or someone who lives on the street.” However, there’s a difference.  

   According to Wikipedia, “It’s very important to define between hobos, tramps and bums as the hobos are sensitive to the titles.” Hobos are typically craftsmen or women that travel for work while tramps don’t work and bums don’t travel or work.

   The festival kicks off with a parade, where all are encouraged to unleash their inner hobo spirit. The tagline for the parade is “some in rags, some in tags, some in velvet dresses.”

   The festival features many things that are common among festivals, such as a Ferris wheel, a tilt-a-whirl and other carnival rides. Most of them are acceptable for children. There are also several food booths as well, such as a pork chop-on-a-stick stop.

   On average, it draws about 20,000 tourists and 75 to 80 tramps over the course of the festival.

   One of the main attractions of the festival is the Hobo Museum, set up in an old theater downtown, which features memorabilia of hobos from centuries past, and many tributes to the most famous hobos, such as Steam Train Maury and Connecticut Slim.

   The museum features a large collection of written works as well as simplistic audio logs of hobos from their travels.

   The festival is not the only one of its kind, as several other towns and states have smaller Hobo Fests as well, but the Britt, Iowa festival is the most well-known of all of them.

   From foot race to relays, there’s no shortage of activities to get you involved in the fun and activities. One of the main ways that hobos make their money is by selling their wares at the festivals.

Jeri Hensley
Graphic Designer

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