HANNIBAL — Sign ups are active this week for the Tom and Becky program, as boys and girls enter the first phase of a time honored tradition of being goodwill ambassadors dating back to 1956.

Tom and Becky Coordinator Melissa Cummins said students can sign up at Hannibal Middle School, Holy Family School and St. John’s Lutheran School, and any students who are homeschooled can sign up at the Mark Twain Museum offices at 120 N. Main St. Local businesses, community members and visitors to Hannibal are eager to see the five boys and girls who make countless appearances during the year.

“One couple, if they had to make all the appearances, they would never go to school,” Cummins said with a laugh.

In 1956, the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce set up a contest for one Tom and one Becky to greet 1,200 students coming by train from St. Louis to visit the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and other sites. Cummins was Tom and Becky coordinator with the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce, and she joined the Mark Twain Museum in 2014. The program was transferred over to the Mark Twain Museum officially in 2016.

Cummins said the youth “grow so much” during the course of the year, as they soak up knowledge about Samuel Clemens and Hannibal’s history. They sharpen interview and speaking skills, building self-confidence and emerging in eighth grade as accomplished public speakers possessing a “wealth of knowledge”.

“The Toms and Beckys are well-loved, both by the community and by the tourists,” Cummins said. “There are people from all over the world who come and always want their pictures taken with Tom and Becky.”

Cummins is planning a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, so she can share more information about the program and the steps to become a Tom or Becky with interested youth and their parents. Due to COVID restrictions, the meeting location is being determined and will be shared with the children and their parents.

For the first phase of the contest, the boys and girls will present a one- to two-minute speech. Twelve boys and twelve boys will be selected to move on to the next round.

More information is available by contacting Cummins at 573-795-4559.

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