Since Hannibal’s flood wall was completed in 1993, city tourism officials have frequently found themselves battling rumors of flooding in America’s Hometown, despite the fact the downtown was high and dry. Although all five of the city’s flood gates went in Friday morning, Gail Bryant, director of the Hannibal Convention & Visitors Bureau, doesn’t believe news of a rising river will curtail the anticipated “flood” of visitors expected for National Tom Sawyer Days (NTSD).
“National Tom Sawyer Days has a proud tradition in Hannibal. Fifty-eight years have seen many changes in Hannibal; levee gates in place this year during National Tom Sawyer Days is certainly not a first. Anyone who knows the downtown area knows that events will continue as planned and that Hannibal doesn’t let a little thing like a few gates get in the way of a fun, family-friendly tradition,” she said.
Although the downtown flood gates were in place a majority of the spring because of high river levels, calls concerning the state of the downtown area have not been overwhelming, according to Bryant.
“No more calls than is typical during a high-water spring. Calls mainly came during the school field trip season in April and May, as teachers wanted to make sure everything on their scheduled field trip was still available. We were always happy to be able to say that yes, everything they had scheduled was business as usual,” she said. “The spring’s unusual weather made high water an issue across the Midwest, not just along the Mississippi. When something is so widespread, it has a tendency to become just one more news story, as opposed to a focus point for potential visitors. We had a lot of visitors that stopped into the Visitors Center and complimented Hannibal’s levee, as they lived in or had lived in an area without such benefits. Visitors are impressed with Hannibal’s preparedness.”
This year the Hannibal Jaycees have a permanent site on the dry side of the flood wall on which to base the nationally-known event.
“Having a permanent location downtown for Jaycees activities is a win-win situation for everyone,” said Bryant. “It is great to have popular events like the Jaycees’ October Haunted House and National Tom Sawyer Days’ Tanyard Gardens in the downtown area. The Jaycees do a great job of lining up live music and having a permanent place for Tanyard Gardens within walking distance from downtown and Central Park is great for locals and visitors alike. We are looking forward to being able to direct visitors to the new location and are sure the Jaycees are equally happy to have a permanent location.”
Page 2 of 2 - NTSD will be the next in a series of significant events in downtown Hannibal. Earlier this week the city played host to the Great Race. Bryant reports that organizers were delighted with what they encountered when their fleet of vintage vehicles rolled into town.
“The promoters from the Great Race were thrilled with the warm reception they received in Hannibal,” she said. “We were the second smallest town to ever host an overnight stay in all the years the Great Race has been running, so it was very important to make this stop a memorable one. Hannibal did just that. I believe we exceeded everyone’s expectations.”