Annual tradition dates back to 1976 with competitions for costumes, bubblegum blowing, watermelon seed spitting, minnow catching, slingshot shooting and gunny sack races
A Hannibal tradition just for girls attracted dozens of competitors to Cardiff Hill Overlook Park on Saturday for some old-fashioned contests hosted by members of the Missouri Business Women —Hannibal Chapter.
The Tomboy Sawyer Contest started in 1976, when Jana Suchland came up with the idea for an event featuring “tomboy” activities for girls between the ages of 10 and 12. At the time, the only other contest for girls was for the role of Becky Thatcher in the Tom and Becky program. During the hot Saturday morning, dozens of girls in detailed Tom Sawyer costumes hustled across the course in gunny sack races, fished for minnows, spit watermelon seeds, blew bubblegum bubbles and practiced their slingshot skills
Elyse Rapp smiled with her mom, Megan, as she recalled her favorite part of the contest.
“I really liked the bubblegum blowing, because I'm usually worried about it getting all over my face,” she said. “But here, you just try to blow the biggest bubble.”
Elyse said she enjoyed the opportunity to participate and have a good time with the other girls.
“I feel like it's a great experience because you get to just be yourself and have fun,” she said.
Her mother, Megan, said the excitement has been nonstop since last summer.
“She's been looking forward to it since last year,” she said. “She got second place last year, so she's looking forward to this year to see if she can beat her own record.”
Grace Moore clutched a slice of watermelon as she leaned back to send a seed flying through the air. Her parents, Rainy and Shawn Moore, cheered her on nearby. Grace's mother participated in the contest when she was in sixth grade, and she offered some advice to her daughter. For Grace and all of her fellow contestants, their costumes reflected considerable effort and fun — she accompanied her mother to several downtown shops as they assembled her outfit.
“It's cool seeing all of the kids dressed up like they are. These kids go all out for it,” Shawn Moore said. “Our daughter Grace's favorite part was dressing up for that — running around barefoot.”
Grace said it was a hot day, but she was all smiles as she talked about how her freckles were running down her face. Her favorite part of the contest was fishing for minnows, snagging seven during the timed session. She said she saw several friends and made lasting memories during her first time at the event.
“It's fun because I know that my mom got to do it, but it was hard also.... I had to do it all fast, and I wouldn't, because I'm not really here for the competition — I just want to have fun.”