2019 was 30th year for family’s annual festival T-shirt designs
The design on this year’s Hootin an Hollarin T-shirts – a rustic-looking, mule-powered covered wagon carrying the familiar, stylized Cedar Pete and Addie Lee characters – was designed by Ozark County native Monica Cowin Bethards reflecting the 2019 festival theme, “A trip back when.”
It wasn’t the first time Monica had designed a Hootin an Hollarin T-shirt. In fact, she’s designed more than 20 others since her first Hootin an Hollarin design back in 1989. But for the last eight years, as her eyesight was failing, she had handed off the Hootin an Hollarin T-shirt design work to her twin sister, Onnica Cowin Hutchings, or her stepbrother, Bradley Evans.
Monica is now legally blind and needs “adaptive technology,” including a 42-inch computer monitor, to do her work in Bolivar for Duck Creek Technologies, a company that develops software for the insurance industry. As her eyesight deteriorated due to a rare disease of the retina, she gave up the Hootin an Hollarin T-shirt design work. But because 2019 marked 30 years since she had designed her first Hootin an Hollarin T-shirt as a high school student, Monica’s mother, Judy Cowin Evans, encouraged her to take up the task again – and Monica accepted the challenge.
“In the past, it might have taken me a couple of hours to draw the design,” she told the Times last week. “But this time it took six or seven hours, using the assistive technology I need to enlarge things so I could draw it.”
Judy scanned in the image Monica created “and gave the mule some teeth,” Monica said. Then Judy produced the dozens of shirts sold in her booth at this year’s Hootin an Hollarin Sept. 19-21.
A family project becomes a business
In her screenprinting work, Judy carries on a tradition – and a business – that her twin daughters had started, with Judy’s help, when they were in high school.
The business’ beginning was a blend of the twins’ work in their high school art class and Judy’s work in the photographic darkroom at the Ozark County Times, where she was employed at the time. “I just needed to learn to print an image on fabric instead of on photo paper,” Judy said.
Her husband, the late Dennis Cowin, was a carpenter, and Judy “went to his scrap lumber pile and picked up some pieces of 2-by-4s and nailed them together and stretched a screen around that,” she said.
The twins – and their mom – decided to try selling shirts at Hootin an Hollarin, screenprinting that first design Monica drew onto T-shirts on-site in their vendor’s booth using the homemade screen Judy had made.
Later, they also created Cedar Pete drawings the Ozark County Times used in advertising and as “clip art” in the newspaper.
Each year, a new Hootin an Hollarin T-shirt design was created, based on that year’s theme.
“After Dennis discovered there was money to be made, he made us a good screen,” Judy said.
The twins continued their screen-printing work after they graduated from Gainesville High School in 1991. “They brought home jobs from every club and organization in high school, and they did the same in college,” Judy said. “Whenever someone would ask about putting something on a shirt, Monica would tell them, ‘Yeah, we can do that.’”
By 2001, however, “the girls were no longer interested in the screen-printing,” Judy said, “but I continued doing it.”
After Dennis died, “it provided a good little income as a second job,” she said.
The business “went pro,” thanks to Wayman King, a friend and former Ozark County Times colleague.
“He found an entire silkscreen shop that was for sale in Diggins,” she said.
Judy got the serial numbers of the equipment and researched it then made an offer that was accepted. Wayman agreed to go with her to Diggins to help haul the equipment back to Gainesville.
But on the morning they were to go, her son, Hervil Cowin, called her and said, “Turn the TV on. You need to watch this.”
It was Sept. 11, 2001.
“I’ll never forget that day,” Judy said. “I was so sad. Like everyone else, I was hurting inside and out. But at the same time I was excited because I was about to pick up the equipment that day. It was like, here I am being blessed, and there are thousands of people dying.”
Because of the attack, there was also a local scare about possible gasoline shortages. “People were lined up, waiting to buy gas everywhere,” Judy said. She called Wayman and asked if he was OK with “spending the gas” to drive to Diggins, a town between Mansfield and Springfield.
Wayman felt confident things would be OK. “So we each took a truck and trailer and went up there and hauled it all home,” she said.
It was no easy task moving the equipment to Judy’s home on Highway 181. “It took four men to carry the curing unit for the shirts onto my back porch,” Judy said.
Getting the chance to open her own business – Daystar Shirts – was the fulfillment “of the dream of a lifetime,” she said. “But at the same time, I couldn’t be 100 percent happy because it was 9/11.”
Despite its start on such a tragic day, the business was a success as Judy accepted T-shirt-printing jobs large and small. Printing the Hootin an Hollarin was an annual “large job.”
30 years of Hootin an Hollarin designs
Each year, as the festival neared, Judy relayed to Monica the theme the Hootin an Hollarin committee had chosen, and Monica then drew a new design for that year’s T-shirt, reflecting the theme. Judy printed the shirts and sold them in her Daystar booth at the festival.
That practice continued until eight years ago, when Monica’s vision loss became more disabling, and Onnica stepped up to draw each year’s design. Onnica also designed and developed some knitted Hootin an Hollarin doll characters – Cedar Pete, Addie Lee, Lil Pete and “P” the pig – that she offers for sale through her Facebook page (search for “Frizzy Hair on a Sunny Day Sally”). By then, Judy had married again, to John Evans, and the twins’ stepbrother, Bradley Evans, also stepped up to draw the design for a couple of years.
“This year, with it being our 30th, Mom asked me if I would do it again because I had done the original,” said Monica, who lives in Bolivar with her husband and two children. “I’d gotten out of it because it’s hard for me now. But I said I’d do my best. All the designs are hand-drawn. I drew it under an enlarger, watching on the big computer screen. I have to have it at 400 percent to see it. Then Mom cleans it up. It’s a team effort.”