As they proudly showed off their collections of knick knacks from years ago, each participant in the annual Hannibal Jaycees National Fence Painting Competition was eager to channel their inner Tom Sawyer on Saturday, July 7.

As they proudly showed off their collections of knick knacks from years ago, each participant in the annual Hannibal Jaycees National Fence Painting Competition was eager to channel their inner Tom Sawyer on Saturday, July 7.

Crowds surrounded the contest area at the corner of Hill and Main streets, and guest judges checked each of the fences for paint quality and speed during the Pee Wee, Local, State and National rounds of the historic competition. During the National Fence Painting Contest, judges included 2017 National winner Dawson Behl, Tom and Becky, Miss Hannibal Amanda Lewis and Miss Mark Twain Teen Cheyenne Smith. After the artifacts judging and the paint had settled, Ben Schwartz won first place; Jayden Donnelly won second place and Cameron Nichols finished third.

Cameron, 14, of Hannibal, showed off a wide array of artifacts like Tom Sawyer would have carried. Cameron is friends with one of Hannibal's Tom Sawyer goodwill ambassadors, Corgan Kramer. Corgan helped source period-correct items for judging that Cameron said accounts for about 46 percent of the National Fence Painting Contest results.

This contest marked Cameron's final year to compete in the national competition, and he said the experience brought him fond memories each time.

“It's been a lot of fun,” he said. “I'm glad I did it all four years.”

Benjamin, 12, of Hull, Ill., was busy talking to a Hannibal Jaycees judge about his sprawling array of artifacts, too. His parents, Sarah and Ted, were helping their son carry on a family tradition, as Benjamin prepared for his third year in the contest. His older brother, Jack, won the national competition in 2016. Benjamin received help from various sources to accrue his items for the contest.

“We've been working for a few years to collect them — his dad, his grandmother, neighbors — others pitch in to help us collect our things each year and make sure we have as much as we can,” Sarah Schwartz said.

As the years pass, Benjamin has been fine-tuning his technique and receiving a new costume each year from his grandmother to keep us he grows up.

Benjamin was visibly excited for the opportunity to continue his journey amid a family tradition.

“I'm just excited to do it again,” he said. “I got fourth the first year and second the second year. I'm looking to keep going, and hopefully get first and just have fun. That's what's it's all about, is just having fun.”

Decades after 1956, the year of the first Hannibal Jaycees-hosted fence painting contest and Hannibal Chamber of Commerce Tom and Becky Contest, the original spirit of friendliness, community and old-fashioned fun hasn't changed a bit.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com