For nearly 11 decades, the northern Iowa town of Britt has hosted the National Hobo Convention, which opens today and runs through Sunday in the Hancock County community. Darcy Eisenmen, one of the event’s organizers, says they expect hoboes and visitors from across the country to attend.
Eisenmen says the lighting of the "jungle fire" in the Hobo Jungle will kick the convention off, while Friday’s events will include a hobo memorial service at Evergreen Cemetery to honor those who have died in the past year and chose to be buried there. She says hoboes are beloved in this town, which has hosted the event for 109 years.
Eisenmen says, "We have a hobo art gallery here in the municipal building where a lady from town here has painted each and every hobo and she has those on display." The big hobo parade starts Saturday at 10 AM, followed by the crowning of the National Hobo King and Queen. Afterward, there will be free Mulligan Stew for everyone in attendance, a concoction of beef, potatoes, carrots, peppers, cabbage, turnips, parsnips and tomatoes.
"There’s always entertainment at the Hobo Jungle in the evening," Eisenman says. "Everybody’s welcome to go down there and visit with the hoboes and sing around the campfire." She says there are many legends about how Britt was selected to host this annual summer festival.
"I think it maybe started out as a joke but it turned into something that, of course, has continued for well over a hundred years," Eisenman says.
Don’t confuse a hobo with a bum, she says, as bums don’t work but hoboes work and ride the rails from one job to the next. For more information about the convention, see the Britt website .