Preston Danner and Lanie Privett are Hannibal's official Tom and Becky for the 2019-2020 year. This was announced by the outgoing official Tom and Becky, Michael Hark and Elaina Dyke, during the Tom and Becky Pageant at noon on the Fourth of July in Hannibal's Central Park.
Among their official duties, Preston and Lanie will represent Hannibal in Hartford, Conn.
Also, one of them will represent Hannibal by throwing out the first pitch in the July 27 St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.
Preston, the son Mark and Carrie Danner; and Lanie, the daughter of Lance and Angie Privett, will serve as Hannibal Goodwill Ambassadors, along with the eight additional finalists. The program is sponsored by the Mark Twain Home and Museum with Melissa Cummins as coordinator.
The additional Toms and their parents are Josiah Campbell, Jared and Bonnie Campbell; Cameron Cox, Curtis and Lori Cox; Tristen Essig, Danny and Leslie Essig; and Jack Myers, Rob and Karen Myers.
Beckys and their parents are Jocelyn Dorsey, Lance and Cammie Dorsey;
Courtney Locke, David and Sara Locke; Annabelle Peck, Thomas and Yesica Peck; and
Tallin Sims, Adam and Katelin Sims.
After the pageant, Preston said when he learned he was the official Tom Sawyer, “It was surreal. … I was super happy.”
He is most looking forward to “traveling around and seeing the country and meeting people.” His school activities include football and art.
He said it was challenging to prepare to be Tom. “I had to memorize things and learn a small scene. It was an all-around experience - acting, speaking and studying, definitely a challenge.”
Lanie was shocked to learn she was Becky Thatcher. “I was breathless and speechless.” She had wanted to be Becky “ever since I could walk and talk. .... It gives me a great opportunity to represent my home town.”
Lanie's activities include drama club, cheer and tumbling competitions, and Pirate Singers. She has cut some activities “to be 110 percent devoted” to being Becky. She knows several former Beckys, including her Aunt Kathy Asbury, Brooke Burton, Jessie Taylor, Paige Cummins and Ashley Cummins.
As they begin serving during the Hannibal Bicentennial year, Lanie and Preston were excited to meet the Becky who served 50 years ago during Hannibal's 1969 Sesquicentennial year. She is Rita Osbourne Preckshot, currently living in Monroe City. Preckshot said when she was Becky and Mike Best was Tom, they were the only ones who served all year.
Her Becky duties kept her busy, walking through the Mark Twain Museum area and greeting visitors, posing for photos and opening stores. The latter included Cassanos on North Main Street, Rockcliffe Mansion (which had been closed for many years) and the Twainland Express.
She and her husband, Jeff, had considered buying a house in the Rensselaer area, but after she learned it was next to the Bear Creek Cemetery where Laura Hawkins (Becky) was buried, she said, “I told my husband I couldn't live next to where I was buried.” The Preckshots were staying at Rockcliffe Mansion during their Fourth of July holiday in Hannibal, and she planned to watch the fireworks from the Rockcliffe roof.
The crowd attending the Tom and Becky Pageant witnessed some special Bicentennial events. One was honoring all previous Toms and Beckys, and another honoring the parents of past and present Toms and Beckys.
The outgoing Toms and Beckys shared some favorite memories, then the finalists each had an opportunity to thank people who helped prepare them to serve, before the official Tom and Becky were announced.
In addition to family and friends, Preston thanked, “everybody in the program for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Lanie thanked her family and also Father Mike (Quinn) for his prayers, “and anyone else that helped me.”
Parade precedes pageant
A light rain fell during the first hour of the Hannibal Fourth of July parade, before ending by 11 a.m. as the parade continued.
The parade had 113 entries, according to Bobi Mathews, Jaycees second vice president. “Hundreds lined the street, despite the rain,” she said. “we are grateful for the community turnout.”
During the parade, Central Park vendors were visited by hundreds of people at the Kiwanis Club's Arts and Crafts show.
Kiwanian Bill Webber was busy selling tickets for the Kiwanis Club's annual raffle drawings on Saturday, July 6. After drawings for $300 each at noon and 2 p.m. Saturday, a drawing at 4 p.m. will give the winner the choice of a Fiat 500 Pop, a Kawasaki Mule or $15,000 cash. Tickets are $20 each or three for $50. The winner need not be present to win.
Mayor James Hark was among the crowd in Central Park during the parade, wearing a patriotic shirt made by his wife. He was not surprised by the size of the crowd watching the parade in the rain, noting it was “typical of Hannibal people. We tough it out and enjoy the day. … At least it wasn't snow,” he joked.
See photo galleries for more photos of the Tom and Becky Pageant and the parade.