One of Iowa’s longest-running events will ride into town again this weekend. The Hobo Festival begins Friday in Britt. Longtime resident and shoe store proprietor Bill Eckels says hobos are a vanishing breed. Steam trains had to stop every 20 to fifty miles to take on fuel and water, he explains, so a hobo who got on at Des Moines could hop off at Ames or Blairsburg, but today’s trains will go 200 miles before stopping. A hobo museum in Britt preserves that vanishing way of life, and every night people will gather at a genuine “hobo village” in town. He says people will entertain there, sing songs and tell stories about hoboes and some are people who really did ride the rails in their earlier years. The crowd will range from tourists and visiting families to wannabe hoboes, imitators some scoff at as being “showboes,” and genuine veterans whose lives have taken strange turns at times.He says they’re probably down to 10 or so of the old “original” hoboes like Steam Train Murray who rode the rails a lot when he was young but around the middle of the century went to school and became a college professor. The Hobo Festival begins Friday, the big parade is Saturday and the antique car show Sunday.
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