Sure, you know that July 4th is Independence Day. And maybe you even know it’s also National Chocolate Wafer Day (although we doubt it). But what we’re pretty sure you didn’t know is that it’s also Tom Sawyer Day. Well, kind of. It’s the start of Tom Sawyer Days in Hannibal, Missouri. Hang on, you’ve never been there? Weird. [photo via Hulton Archive/Getty Photo]
It actually makes a lot of sense that Tom Sawyer has his own holiday in Hannibal; that’s where Mark Twain was born. His literature is read by pretty much everyone — whether they like it or not. High school English classes across the country are big fans of making 16-year-olds read Twain. Of course, his literature is exceptional, so nobody should complain about required reading. It’s only natural that Hannibal is proud that such an author came from their town. And, boy, are they proud: Every year, Hannibal celebrates Twain’s legacy by holding a parade, flea market, carnival, volleyball tournament, and more.
What do we mean by more? We mean contests like the fence-painting competition and the “Frog Long Jump”. That’s right — these are contests inspired by the events in Twain’s novels. Theme, it seems, is very important to the people of Hannibal. Who could forget Aunt Polly ordering Tom to paint the fence as punishment for getting into a fight in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. He cleverly convinces his friends to help him do it and escapes his punishment through bribery. Ah, moral values. Hannibal takes this fence-painting business very seriously: Boys between the ages of 10 and 13 dress up as Tom — that’s part of the judging criteria — and judges base their scores on both the speed and quality of the contestants’ paint jobs. Honestly, this is probably just a ruse to get kids to actually do their chores, but, hey, it’s creative.
The Tom Sawyer Day celebrations started in 1956 when a television crew and 1,200 students came to visit Hannibal during their tour of Mark-Twain-related locations and the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce announced they would hold a Tom-Sawyer-themed costume contest for local kids. And so the tradition grew. And grew. And grew.
It’s important to remember that this incredible day of carnivals and parades and contests is also the Fourth of July. Yes, this is an awesome time to be in Hannibal, Missouri. So, happy Fourth of July and, of course, happy Tom Sawyer Days!