Missouri News

Mark Twain's 183rd birthday gets celebrated Saturday in Hannibal

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 2, 2018 12:01 am

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- More than a century after his death, Mark Twain's birthday was still a cause for celebration this weekend in his boyhood hometown of Hannibal.

Twain, who would have turned 183 on Friday, was the special honoree at Saturday's annual Mark Twain Birthday Bash at the Mark Twain Museum.

Games for kids, contests for adults and tours of the museum were the order of the day while visitors saluted the memory of one of America's greatest authors.

Henry Sweets, executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, said Twain would have been proud to see people still remembering him fondly after all these years.

"During his own lifetime Mark Twain promoted himself, and he became one of the most recognizable people in the world. Anywhere he went, people knew who he was as soon as they saw him," Sweets said.

"Now, 183 years since his birth, the fact that he is still so well known, I think, would be very gratifying to him. His books are still important enough to be read, and the messages he tried to convey are still applicable today. Mark Twain observed human nature, and human nature doesn't change much."

Many of the people attending the Birthday Bash were fans of Mark Twain in some manner. Among them was Kason Bonvillian, 14, one of five boys serving as Tom Sawyer ambassadors for the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce while five girls serve as Becky Thatcher ambassadors.

Most of the Toms and Beckys were helping out with some of the games, crafts and activities during Saturday's birthday party.

Bonvillian said he likes to see Hannibal paying homage to its most famous native son on the occasion of his birthday each year.

"I think it's a great thing," he said.

"Mark Twain was one of the first celebrities in America, and he really started a whole genre of writing with the way that he wrote using country accents. He was an inspiration to a lot of other writers, and he is the reason for all of the tourism in Hannibal today."

Bonvillian said he feels honored to portray one of the key characters from Twain's classic novel, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer."

"I've always loved Mark Twain's books," he said.

Also taking part in the Birthday Bash were Melanie Hiles of her two sons -- Luke, 10, and Liam, 7.

"We just wanted to come celebrate Mark Twain's birthday," Hiles said.

She said her family just moved to Hannibal not long again, and she wanted her sons to see what the museum had to offer.

"They like the old-time games," she said, including the pin-the-mustache-on-Twain contest, a musical mustaches contest (as opposed to musical chairs) and the opportunity to make Twain-themed party hats, necklaces and Christmas ornaments.

Luke, who attends Mark Twain Elementary School, said he likes what he has read of Mark Twain's writing. "I think he was kind of a cool guy," he said.

Melissa Cummins, marketing and community relations manager for the boyhood home and museum, said the Birthday Bash is a fun way to introduce people to Mark Twain and show them what the museum has to offer.

"It's also a way for us to give back to the community," she said.

One highlight of the day's festivities was a mustache contest for adults. Dave Schlembach won the "Mark Twain Stache" category, while Frewd Still captured the "Dapper Stache" title.

Desiree Cowden won the People's Choice Award in a masquerade mask competition.

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