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History Monday: The Mark Twain Festival, 1958

By Mike Watson

How many readers recall the Mark Twain Festivals? It was a big deal for Columbia, girlhood home of Jane Lampton Clemens, mother of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, best known to the world as Mark Twain.

Columbia and Adair County made a big showing for the Festival in May of 1958, with many sponsored activities to please the most discerning of the population.

"Many local residents are going about their everyday affairs downtown dressed as if they might have stepped off an old Mississippi side-wheeler, and were walking to the mounting block. Beards of every size and description are in evidence everywhere. Ladies are decked out in sidewalk-sweeping gowns and bonnets reminiscent of the by-gone era of the late 1800s," according to the front page, above the fold article in the May 7th Adair County News.

There were window displays galore. Almost every store on the Public Square had at least one window with antique objects on display--from muzzle loaders and candle molds to spinning wheels and ox yokes. One window was devoted to antique toys and dolls, another to ancient firearms, and another with a display of newspapers from the 1800s.

Wednesday night, May 7th, was designated as "old-fashioned" prayer meeting night at the Courthouse, with Dr. A.H. Phillips, of the Baptist Church, speaking. All those with old-fashioned costumes were requested to wear them to the service. All regular Wednesday night church services were canceled in favor of this special meeting.

Lindsey Wilson College's May Festival was held in conjunction with the Mark Twain Festival on Thursday and Friday nights of the celebratory week. This portion of the event consisted of fifteen episodes depicting various periods of American History and the music that accompanied them. The general theme was "America Sings." About 150 students from the college and training school participated.

The episodes included: Indian Life, Early America, Birth of the Flag, Dixie Land, Westward Expansion, Building of the Nation, the Circuit Rider, Civil War, Mark Twain, the Gay Nineties, Founding of Lindsey Wilson College, World War I, the Roaring Twenties, the Thirties, and World War II.

An All-Star basketball game was played at the Adair County High School gym on Friday afternoon featuring many of the Lindsey Wilson and Adair County High players.

The main events of the Festival were on Saturday. In the morning the Adair Sportsman Club sponsored muzzle-loading rifle matches. The shoot was under the direction of Ben Hancock, president of the Solomon Baker Muzzle-Loading Association.

Noon brought a closed reception at the Meadow Hill Inn for the young ladies entering the "Miss Clementine" contest.

Then came the big downtown parade and the beard growing contest. There were covered wagons and many sites to see. Jumping frog contests were held at the Fairgrounds later in the afternoon, followed by a fish fry and the much anticipated beard judging. Brass and string bands performed at the Fairgrounds as well.

Next the Mark Twain Pageant was held near dusk. About 175 participants dressed in costume participated. This was followed by a square dance to bring the Festival to a close.

This magnificent schedule of events was orchestrated by the Jaycees of Columbia who invited all residents and visitors to enjoy the vast array of entertainments in honor of our famous and most historical grandson of Adair County, Samuel L. Clemens.

This story was posted on 2020-08-17 07:09:43
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Mark Twain Festival commemorative coin

2020-08-17 - Columbia, KY - Photo by Gina Baker.
Gina writes, "I read your article regarding the Mark Twain Festival and wanted to send in the attached photo of a coin that I purchased from eBay."

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