Hootin an Hollarin, our historic festival
A week after Gainesville’s first Hootin an Hollarin in 1961, the Ozark County Times reported, “Ozark County festival draws largest crowds in years; may become annual event.” That was Nov. 2, 1961, and Hootin an Hollarin has been drawing large crowds to the Gainesville square every fall since then.
The festival came about when local Extension agent Fred Oehring and the county agent for community affairs, Doyle Sanders, organized a meeting to bring together three distinctive factions of Ozark Countians – country folks, townspeople and resort owners – around a common “community interest.”
Two hundred people attended that first meeting, and among the ideas shared was Addie Lee Lister’s idea of holding a special day with booths to demonstrate early homemaking skills and other crafts. Addie Lee credits the late Ed Petterson, an artistic woodworker, with creating the name Hootin an Hollarin.
The first festival was held the last weekend in October with Springfield radio entertainer Loyd Evans serving as master of ceremonies and Rex Ebrite and J. J. Pace serving as announcers.
The schedule was filled with demonstrations by local residents making lye soap, hominy, sorghum, shingle shakes and other old-time items. A horse-drawn haywagon took customers on a moonlight ride to the ballpark and back, and blacksmith Henry Hubbard of Brixey brought in his forge and shod six horses during the event. (see photo, page 62) .
The Pontiac Area Association (now incorporated into the Theodosia Chamber of Commerce) served charcoal-grilled hamburgers and other delicious choices, and on Saturday a “basket dinner” was served on the courthouse lawn, open to everyone. The Times reported that the food for the dinner was contributed by the Lions Club and local residents. Servers listed were Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Pace, Lyndell Strong, Dorcas Rackley, Betty Rackley, Mrs. G. R. Crisp, Mrs. G. W. Rogers, Mrs. Loren Taylor, Helen Marie Luna, Frances Johnson and Lou Anna Wade.
To serve as a landmark for the event, a cabin, someone’s former smokehouse, was moved to the southwest corner of the square by “Roy Smith, who hauled it in almost intact,” the Times reported. “He was aided by Mel Hambelton, M. L. Kirkpatrick, O’Dean Evans, John Dodson and others. Elbert Owen of Dora supplied a corn-shuck mop and Mrs. G. R. Crisp a gourd dipper for atmosphere. Gordon Archie of Theodosia and Nick Salst of Ocie brought in rails for a stake-and-rider fence.”
A moonshine still – or parts of one –stood next to the cabin. Several years ago, Addie Lee Lister (see tribute, page 52 in this year's Hootin an Hollarin festival guide) recounted how it came to be there:
“What I really wanted was a still. I knew it couldn’t actually be a working still, but I thought we could have parts of one to make a display. I asked around town if anyone knew anyone who had a still, and of course everyone insisted they’d never heard of anybody having one. But then one morning I stepped out on the front porch of our house in Gainesville, and here was all this stuff - metal parts and things. It was a still,” she said.
Addie Lee hauled all the parts down to the square and deposited them by the cabin. As she tried to set it up she was watched by “the loafers,” as she called the old men who sat on the courthouse lawn benches, whittling and talking.
“They were hollering that I was doing it wrong,” she said. “But when I said, ‘Well, come over here and show me how it goes,’ they claimed they didn’t know how it went together – they just knew I was doing it wrong.”
The first festival featured coon-dog trials, greased-pig scrambles, a best-decorated hat contest, cake walks and contests judging turkey and cow calling, fox horn blowing, archery, horseshoes, fiddling, square dancing and other skills.
Nighttime entertainment was furnished by local musicians and out-of-towners too, including Randolph Hutchison, Grant Wallace, Everett Wallace, Hoy Shaw, Leonard Croney, Bobby Sullivan, Theodore Shipley, Willard Cobb, Phyllis Wood. Loyd Evans, Rusty and Vera Cline, Curt Williams, Terry and Jerry Gott and Ezra Hawkins.
Now, more than 50 years later, today’s Hootin an Hollarin still draws large crowds to the Gainesville square. Each year’s theme and lineup change while the focus remains the same. The emphasis is still on Ozark County people and their traditions, on having fun and commemorating the past while enjoying great country music and reconnecting with friends and family.