Len Moss, in his “banker's” black suit and top hat, was one of the most recognized people among the thousands attending the Hannibal Arts Council's 39th Annual Autumn Historic Folklife Festival on Oct. 17 and 18, because his picture adorns the festival booklet.

Len Moss, in his “banker’s” black suit and top hat, was one of the most recognized people among the thousands attending the Hannibal Arts Council’s 39th Annual Autumn Historic Folklife Festival on Oct. 17 and 18, because his picture adorns the festival booklet.

Moss, 98, has missed only a couple of the Folklife Festivals, and that was only because he was on a ship. He has dressed as a banker since the first festival, when he and Joe DeLuca actually served as bankers, providing change to the people manning their festival booths. That first year, he said, the festival was at the intersection of Main and Bird. “Everybody had to be in costume” and cook on wood-burning stoves.

This year the exhibitors and food vendors include many Hannibal civic organizations and churches, which raise funds to finance their local projects all year.

KC fish booth reports: ‘Biggest day we ever had’

Festival food was probably the best selling item, with block-long lines waiting at several booths, including the fish sandwiches sold by the Hannibal Knights of Columbus. The KC members sold 2,400 fish sandwiches on Saturday, reporting “this is the biggest day we ever had.”

Sweet treats also sold well. At the United Way of the Mark Twain Area the most popular cookies were sugar cookies decorated for Halloween and fall by the Palmyra Parents As Teachers organization taught by Katy Nicholson. These cookies were sold out on Saturday.

Foods that sold out Sunday included the Preceptor Zeta Pi – Beta Sigma Phi chicken and noodles, where 3,000 servings sold out by 2 p.m. Sunday.

Nearby, Clover Road Christian Church members reported 160 pans of cinnamon rolls sold out by 2:25 p.m. Sunday.

Boy Scout Troop 106 was selling both chili dogs and “regular” hot dogs, and said the regular ones were most popular, adding people come back every year because they like the hickory charcoal flavor.

One new food item that proved popular was fried Oreos, served by Lisa and Ken Marks of the Hannibal History Museum, where Ken said eating them was a “guilty pleasure.”

To many Hannibalians, the festival prompts a family reunion. Skip and Betty Wells had 21 family members at their fish fry Saturday before going to the festival.

Janice Lamberson of Hannibal, accompanied by her daughter-in-law, Donna Lamberson of Poplar Bluff, “loved seeing all my friends,” along with drinking chai tea from Java Jive and eating beer bread and honey.

Others enjoyed buying food or crafts from family members, such as Betty Pfaff, who had been served knackwurst by her grandson, Andrew Richards, at the Hannibal Rotary Club booth. Pfaff was carrying home a bowl of caramel apples and three colorful mums.

She was among many who paused at the Farmers’ Market on Center Street on their way home to buy mums from the Pioneer Gardens of Lancaster, Mo. On Sunday, the gardeners reported they brought 500 mums to the festival and sold about two-thirds of them Saturday.

Jim Elliott of rural Frankford was busy at the Farmers’ Market, where he sold gourds, hickory nuts, turnips and green beans.

Several of the usual musicians performed at the festival, and one new group was a Salvation Army Brass Band, joined by local instrumentalists. The Salvation Army band played its favorites, including the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Onward Christian Soldiers.”

LEAP students lead children’s area

The children’s area was again led by the local elementary LEAP students. Their teacher, Tracy Murphy, was proud of how the students had done all their planning in class to come prepared with their supplies for making headbands, necklaces and other old-fashioned arts. Fourth grader Lexi Sanders helped children make clothespin dolls and said the boys were making Superheroes. Fifth grader Cheyenne Smith said the children were designing the headbands with their own ideas and decorating them with markers.

A block away, children learned to make pottery. Katy Tooey, 8, and James Tooey, 7, of Durham, accompanied by their grandmother, Marti Tooey of Hannibal, made small bowls and were planning the colors they would paint them after two days of drying.

Quincy residents Darlene and Harry Myers brought her sister and brother-in-law, Carolyn and Michael West of Sellers Belle, Penn. The family was helping 2-year-old Paisley Grace Reinert decide between brown and white fur earmuffs.

As the festival ended at 4 p.m. Sunday, HAC Executive Director Michael Gaines said, “There are so many levels to the Folklife Festival. On the surface it is a two-day festival held each third full weekend in October.”

It benefits Hannibal, he continued, “such as tourism benefits and an influx of economic activity, while at the same time more personal aspects such as contributions to our sense of place and community and bringing our community together.”

‘Volunteers make festival a success’

“The Hannibal Arts Council is so appreciative that the Hannibal community has as much ownership of the folklife festival as HAC does,” Gaines said. “It truly does take a village to produce an event the size of the Folklife Festival. So many people come together to create any community event, and folklife is no exception, from volunteers making coffee, helping with set-up before the event or cleaning up streets after, to the hundreds of local civic, church and non-profit organizations working food booths, to downtown merchants who work so hard to show our local and tourist guests a great time. It’s humbling and rewarding.”

Gaines added that “the festival takes on a life of its own, but one thing is for sure, the event seems to have a special place in the heart of our community. It is so appropriate that it is held in the heart of our community, our beautiful Downtown Historic District.”

Reach Reporter Bev Darr at bev.darr@courierpost.com.