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Published: September 6th 2010
In Britt, Iowa every year on the second weekend of August thre is a four day event called the National Hobo Convention or 'Hobo Days'. Saturday morning I got up early and drove out to Britt from my new home, Algona, Iowa for the Hobo Days parade. I got there super early because I was worried about parking and ended up traversing the town for an hour and a half, stopping at a few garage sales on the way. A little before 10 I found myself on a park bench in the town park talking to other people from out of town and waiting for the parade to start. Once the parade started, it did not stop for an hour and a half! There were antique cars, tractors, floats, hobos, more tractors, Shriners, and more tractors; it was such a long parade for a small town! After the parade, around 12pm, Mulligan Stew was served in the park free of charge. It was made in twelve HUGE barrels and was already being prepared when I first walked past the park around 8am. The recipe, which is based off of an old hobo recipe, creates about 500 gallons of stew. Hence the
reason I was able to get a cup of stew over an hour after they started serving it to people who were eagerly waiting in line with their spaghetti pots and empty five gallon ice cream buckets from home.
As a sat down on the bleachers to eat my cup of stew, I noticed a man carrying a kitchen pot of stew in one hand, a walking stick in another, and proudly wearing a badge that read hobo king. As a turned to my left, I also spotted a fluffy tan colored dog wearing a shirt and special doggy sunglasses. I had never seen doggy sunglasses before. The dog quickly became the center of attention of everyone who walked by and it was amusing to see all of the stunned faces.
After checking out the street flea market and hobo art gallery which featured oil paintings of past hobo kings and queens beginning with the first hobo king elected in Britt, Iowa in 1900; I went to witness the coronation of the 2010 hobo king and queen. This involved speeches from all of the king and queen hopefuls and was concluded based on the king and queen candidate
who received the most applause. The new king and queen were immediately crowned with robes and crowns made from old coffee cans.
Later that evening, I drove back to Britt to check out the hobo jungle. Just like back in the olden days, the jungle was set up beside the railroad tracks and consisted of a campfire, songs, stories, poems, and food. There was also two hobo weddings, or rather, hobo vow renewals. One interesting hobo tradition is the burning of the rhubarb leaf. The bride and the groom both get a stalk of rhubarb. Since the leaf is bad, poisonous, they walk around the fire arm in arm and rip off the leaf and throw it into the flames. Symbolically they are getting rid of the bad (the leaf) and keeping the good (the stalk). I stayed at the hobo jungle until dusk and it showed no signs of stopping anytime soon. I headed home for a good night of sleep but there were several people at the Hobo Convention who would be sleeping in the hobo jungle that night. There were at least a dozen tents spread out around the jungle where people had been camping that
Or rather, a hobo renewing of vows after 40 years of marriage. The three children of the married couple are singing a song to their mother.
weekend for the convention.
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