Destination Iowa: National Hobo Convention
BRITT ― For 117 years, Britt has welcomed visitors and hobos from across the country to the National Hobo Convention. The annual celebration is being held Aug. 10-13.
Following the Civil War, hobos traveled across the country on freight trains filling the gaps in America's labor needs. Beginning in 1900, Britt has hosted a four-day celebration honoring hobos and their history. Over the weekend, visitors are invited to attend free entertainment at the hobo jungle conveniently set up next to the train tracks.
“We call it a jungle because there's different campsites set up and throughout the U.S. there's different hobo jungles and when they travel they meet up there,” Britt Hobo Days Association President Amy Boekelman said. “Visitors can show up at the jungle and hobo entertainment is whatever the hobos decide to do. It could be singing, playing instruments, even reading poetry.”
During the celebration Britt welcomes 8,000 to 10,000 guests to take part in the festivities. The convention kicks off at 7 p.m. Thursday night with the lighting of the fire in the hobo jungle. Saturday is the biggest day featuring the parade followed by mulligan stew served in the park and the coronation of the hobo king and queen. The National Hobo Convention is a family-friendly event and is free to the public. The National Hobo Museum will be open during the convention and admission is $5.
“It's important to keep the history alive because it's more than just a town festival,” Boekelman said. “It's important to remember the history because we're living in the day and age where things come easy and back then it wasn't easy and for some it's still not easy.”
“I hope people who come enjoy our town and see that we have a unique history behind the hobos and a unique festival. I hope they learn its not about the free entertainment and there's more to the hobos. Everyone has a different story and it's a great time to get together. We encourage people to visit the jungle, the museum and to embrace each other and see what it's all about.”