HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Get ready for Hannibal's biggest week of the year.
The 63rd annual National Tom Sawyer Days returns Saturday and will continue until the following weekend. During this time, thousands of people will swell the city's downtown to participate in the diverse activities happening each day.
"Every year, our hotels are full," Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau Assistant Director Megan Rapp said. "We have tons of visitors who stop by the HCVB building during this time. We're always busy, but it's a good kind of busy."
Hannibal Jaycees puts on the event each year and work closely with the HCVB to advertise the event across the region several months in advance. The organization's website says National Tom Sawyer Days got its start in the 1960s when the city held its first fence-painting contest "to add color" when more than 1,000 St. Louis children visited Hannibal for a tour. The throwback to when Aunt Polly made Tom whitewash the fence in Mark Twain's famous novel has been a tradition ever since.
"If you grew up in Hannibal, this is the time of the year you're coming back to see friends and family," Rapp said.
Hannibal Jaycees President Jeff Veach agreed.
"What makes National Tom Sawyer Days so great is that it's been going on for so long and because of the people who attend it," he said. "We bring back to town Hannibalians and people as far away as California and Massachusetts who want to try their hand at fence painting."
In addition to the annual local, state and national fence-painting contests, a big draw, Rapp said, is the Fourth of July fireworks show.
"Many communities hold their fireworks shows on the weekend, but Hannibal's show is always on July 4," she said. "Plus, it's unique for many people to see a fireworks show over the Mississippi River. The No. 1 question we get from tourists coming down for the festivities is, ‘When are the fireworks?'"
Kicking off the first day of the festival is always a prominent musical artist, and this year's musician is Dylan Scott.
Scott is probably best known for his Billboard country No. 1 hit "My Girl," which started getting significant radio airplay in summer 2016. Soon after, his self-titled album landed at No. 5 on Billboard's Country Albums chart.
The musician's website describes his music as a mix of country and pop-friendly Southern rock that people who don't even like country music are sure to enjoy. Fuedin' Hillbillys, who are based out of Champaign, Ill., and play high-energy country, will open for Scott.
General admission tickets cost $15.
Although the festival is meant to be fun, it also acts as the Jaycees' largest fundraiser to help out the community and others. Veach said the civic organization raises about $40,000 from the weeklong festival and will use the money for the Buddy Pack program, the St. Jude Run and to create opportunities of access for persons with disabilities.
For more information about National Tom Sawyer Days or to purchase Dylan Scott tickets, visit HannibalJaycees.org/ntsd-2018.html.
Schedule of events:
8 a.m. -- Baby contest by Barbara Stewart at Admiral Coontz Armory, 301 Warren Barrett Drive.
9 a.m. -- Horseshoe tournament qualifiers by Hannibal Participants of Public Service Club at Ringer Park, corner of South Main Street and Warren Barrett Drive.
10 a.m. -- Cornhole tournament by Hannibal Jaycees/Them Guys Cornhole at Tanyard Gardens, corner of Third and Lyon streets.
2 p.m. -- Miller Spectacular Shows Carnival grand opening, Lyon Street.
5:30 p.m. -- Gates open at Tanyard Gardens. Dylan Scott will perform with special guest Feudin' Hillbillys.
10 a.m. -- Horseshoe tournament at Ringer Park.
2 p.m. -- Miller Spectacular Shows Carnival opens. Family Day: $20 armbands from 3 to 8 p.m.
5 p.m. -- Miller Spectacular Shows Carnival opens. Buddy Day: Buy one set of tickets, get another ride free.
Noon -- Miller Spectacular Shows Carnival opens for individuals with special needs only. Persons with special needs ride free with parent or guardian until 3 p.m.
1 p.m. -- 46th annual pet show by F&M Bank at Central Park.
5 p.m. -- Miller Spectacular Shows Carnival opens to everyone.
9 a.m. -- Arts and crafts festival by Kiwanis Club at Central Park.
10 a.m. -- Parade downtown. Miller Spectacular Shows Carnival opens.
Noon -- 2018 Tom and Becky announcement, Central Park.
2 p.m. Mud volleyball practice at Y Men's Pavilion, Hill St.
9:30 p.m. -- Fireworks show.
9 a.m. -- Arts and crafts festival at Central Park.
10 a.m. -- Miller Spectacular Shows Carnival opens. $20 armbands beginning at 5 p.m.
2 p.m. -- Talent show by Hannibal Jaycees at Tanyard Gardens.
4 p.m. -- Mud volleyball tournament and youth games at Y Men's Pavilion.
5 p.m. -- Tomboy Sawyer competition by Business Women of Missouri at Cardiff Hill overlook.
6 p.m. -- Teen Night at Tanyard Gardens.
9:30 p.m. -- Fire juggling show at Tanyard Gardens.
9 a.m. -- Arts and crafts festival at Central Park.
10 a.m. -- Miller Spectacular Shows Carnival opens.
2 p.m. -- Local, pee-wee and girls fence painting at North Main and Hill Street. Registration begins at 1 p.m.
4 p.m. -- Mud volleyball tournament at Y Men's Pavilion.
5 p.m. Gates open at Tanyard Gardens for happy hour. Local act Capisce performs.
7 a.m. -- Hannibal Cannibal by Hannibal Regional Foundation at Tom and Huck statue. Registration begins at 5:30 a.m.
7:30 a.m. -- Mud volleyball at Y Men's Pavilion.
10 a.m. -- Washers tournament by Hannibal Jaycees at Tanyard Gardens. Miller Spectacular Shows Carnival opens. Kids Day: $20 matinee armbands 1 to 5 p.m.
Noon -- Frog jumping contest by Boy Scouts of America in lot next to carnival. Registration begins at 10 a.m.
2 p.m. Tricycle races by Kiwanis Club in lot next to carnival. State, national, over-30 fence-painting competition at North Main and Hill Street. Registration begins at 1 p.m.
6 p.m. -- Gates open at Tanyard Gardens. '80s night with Shoot to Thrill and Motley Crucial performing.