If you’ve gone to an event on the scale of Hannibal’s National Tom Sawyer Days — or better yet, if you’ve been involved in planning one — it’s apparent that a tremendous amount of work and arranging goes into pulling off a multi-day, multi-event festival that’s widely acknowledged as the biggest weekend of the year. Attendees at Tuesday’s Hannibal City Council meeting got a taste of just how much work the Hannibal Jaycees and city staff put into making it happen over the 4th of July weekend.
Jennifer Foster and Rhonda Stevenson, the Hannibal Jaycees’ co-chairs for the 56th annual National Tom Sawyer Days, approached the council Tuesday night with a slew of street closures and other considerations that were readily granted:
• That the city parking lot near Ole Planters Barn restaurant at Main and Bird streets be used as a vendor area. That lot also will be used for musical performances, while an adjacent grassy area owned by the city will be used for Tanyard Gardens, the food and beer tent and the epicenter of the festivities. Permission to sell alcoholic beverages in those locations also was sought and granted.
• That the streets in the historic downtown area — Main Street from Hill and Bird north to North — be temporarily closed from July 2-4. Barricades have not been enough to deter motorists in the area in the past, Foster said, and Police Chief Lyndell Davis suggested the additional measure of closing the streets.
• That the alleyway from Hill to Bird be closed from June 30-July 4, creating unfettered access for patrons with open beverages between Tanyard Gardens on Bird Street and the Y-Men Pavilion on Hill Street, site of the Y-Men Mud Volleyball Tournament.
• That the license fees be waived and Broadway closed from Fourth Street to the riverfront from June 27-July 5 for the ever-popular carnival. Third Street would remain open to traffic. The Jaycees requested that the area in front of Bubba’s be designated as overflow parking for the carnival and for vendors, with snow parking used to secure it.
• That Broadway be closed from Grand to 4th for the parade July 4, with no parking along Broadway in that area from midnight till noon that day.
The festival of all things Twain was staged in the same area last year. The Jaycees obtained permission last year to use Nipper Park in perpetuity, but high waters last year forced them out just as quickly, and as Hannibal installs its floodgates today ahead of what the National Weather Service has said will be a long, wet spring and summer, the same scenario appears to be unfolding this year.
Even with the city’s permission to use the aforementioned areas, there are still many other considerations to take into account. Police Chief Lyndell Davis said the Jaycees and city department heads will reconvene in about a month to iron out many smaller details of the festival.
In a separate request, Bill Webber of the Hannibal Kiwanis Club, which sponsors the Samuel L. Clemens Arts and Crafts Festival over 4th of July weekend, requested the use of Central Park and the use of Fourth Street from Center to Broadway from July 1-4 for the 35th annual craft fair. Webber noted that all 126 booths at the craft fair have been leased, 70 of them by return vendors from last year.
The City Council voiced only one serious question about all of these requests for the biggest weekend of the year.
“Could you order a little cooler weather this year?” Second Ward Councilman Michael Dobson asked Webber.