62nd Hootin an Hollarin graced with sunny skies, large crowds
The 62nd Hootin an Hollarin festival, held Sept. 21-23, was one for the books. Ushered in by warm temperatures with highs in the 80s and mostly sunny skies, the weather was not a problem for this year’s event, and attendance proved it.
Large crowds turned out throughout the festival, especially on Saturday. By Saturday night, as the last session of square dancing began, the crowd outgrew the wooden platforms and stretched far into the street on both sides.
The event kicked off Thursday night with an official welcome by Gainesville Mayor Gail Reich followed by a performance of the National Anthem and a few songs by 13-year-old Jessica Suit. Regan Blackburn then took the stage for a fiddle performance.
The headline act was the Finley River Boys who played a crowd-pleasing set of bluegrass tunes. The annual queen pageant was held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday with 10 participants. MaryJane Flygare, a Lutie student and daughter of Rachel Blache, was crowned as this year’s Hootin an Hollarin queen.
As the judges were tallying their votes during the queen pageant, Gainesville Lions Club President Kerrie Zubrod recognized the 2023 Barney Douglas Citizen of the Year, Karen Brantingham, on stage, followed by recognition of 2023 Hootin an Hollarin parade marshals, Kenny and LaVese Ericksen, by Hootin an Hollarin chairwoman Paula Rose.
The annual quilt show also opened its doors Thursday evening and welcomed spectators all three days. Sandra Stone won best in show, Barbara Luna won judges’ choice and Patricia Jarman took home the people’s choice award, voted on by the viewers of the quilt show during Hootin an Hollarin.
Thursday night ended with the first session of square dancing with musicians playing the dancing tunes late into the night.
Friday’s festivities began at 10 a.m. with the opening of the Shelter Insurance free kids corner, which included a heated 10:30 a.m. terrapin race. The annual event features a large circle where contestants begin with their terrapins, or turtles, in the center and let them loose. The first terrapin to reach the edge of the outer circle wins. This time Kimber Frazier took home first place with her turtle Speedy.
Friday’s main stage entertainment included performances by the Gainesville High School choir, 13-year-old country musician Wyatt Dodge, One More Dollar playing “Ozarkia” music, the Emalee Flatness Band, Backyard Bluegrass and the afternoon gazebo pickers. The night ended with a lively bit by the Psycho Billy Cadillac Band, which had the Hootin an Hollarin crowd on their feet at the main stage, dancing and jumping to the beat.
In addition to the bands, the Hootin an Hollarin main stage also served as the backdrop for the annual Lil Cedar Pete and Lil Miss Addie Lee contest where Noah VanderVeen was named Lil Cedar Pete, and Sabra Bryant was named Lil Miss Addie Lee.
Following that contest, the annual princess pageants had a very large turnout of 25 girls between the three age division contests. The 2023 Lil Princess is Hope Deatherage, 2023 Lil Miss is Devyn Walker and 2023 Junior Princess is Makadah Lockett.
Free old-fashioned kids games were held on the courthouse lawn Friday afternoon. Results of those contests weren’t available at presstime.
The bed and outhouse races were held at their usual location on the west side of the square Friday afternoon. The Gainesville High School FBLA secured first place in the outhouse race, while a Top Dog Fitness Center team won the bed races.
The third annual Ozark County FFA Bull Blast bullriding event was held at the Gainesville Saddle Club Friday night, and it drew a large crowd. Although it’s not an official Hootin an Hollarin event, the show has been held each year during Hootin an Hollarin. This year Quincey McDonald brought in the highest score and won the Gainesville event.
The night ended with another session of square dancing to live music.
Saturday morning was kicked off bright and early with the Hillbilly 5K where overall winners were Cherie Wyatt with a time of 22:07 and Josiah Foster with a time of 21:42. The event raised $1,175 for the Gainesville cross country and track teams.
The archery and shotgun shoot, organized by Missouri Department of Conservation Agents Jerry Kiger and Tom Leeker, was held at its usual location across Highway 160 from the square in the lower grassy area by the creek. This year both the archery and the shotgun competitions ended with a tie. Jarett Hogan and Jerry Moritz tied for the archery win, each with a score of 19 out of 20 points. Jon Pettit and Drake Arnett tied in the shotgun competition, each securing a score of 21.
In the annual pet show, 25 participants and their owners showed up to wow the crowd. Pets included several dogs, a chicken, bearded dragon and more. The best in show award went to a little bucking-stock calf named Lola. She was entered by her young owners, Kelton and Carter Solomon.
The annual costume contest was up next, and 26 participants clad in a variety of interesting and pioneer-themed costumes entered. The best in show award was awarded to Landon and Brynlee Johnson, children of Laramie and Brianna Johnson, with their costumes titled “Johnson’s Store, Est. 1901,” modeled after the Johnson Store that was established by the family’s kinfolk around the turn of the century in Pontiac.
The Shelter Insurance free kids corner was opened again Saturday morning with a variety of games and other fun, and the second terrapin race of the festival was held. In that race, Chasyn Hicks took home the first place ribbon with his fast and furious terrapin Flash.
The second annual cornhole tournament was held at 10 a.m., and this year’s winning team was Gainesville High School Superintendent Justin Gilmore and his son Parker.
The annual pie-baking competition had 10 entries, including one cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven and also a set of fried pies. The grand prize-winning pie was a cinnamon roll apple pie baked by Gainesville resident Christina Jones.
The Saturday main stage entertainment was led by a noon show by Rob Voss. Other performers were District 33, Come What Mae, Simply Southern Cloggers, Sylamore Special and the Kattie Laney Project. An afternoon gazebo pickin’ session was held again in the gazebo on the courthouse lawn.
The VanRanken family was honored on stage as the 2023 Ozark County Farm Family, and Debbie Cooper was also acknowledged for owning a Century Farm.
The big parade kicked off at 2 p.m. where the “Littles and Vittles” float took the grand prize ribbon. The Flippin High School band won first in the band competition, while the Central High School Drum & Bugle corps took home the win in the bugle corps category.
A free magic show was held in the Shelter Insurance office after the parade, and the calling contests were held on the main stage. Beth Schnider won the husband calling contest, Charlotte Hyatt won the fowl calling contest, Cora Burton won the cow calling contest and Chad Stasey won the pig calling contest.
The last session of square dancing drew the extra-large crowd and ended the night Saturday just as a storm blew through the area.