Outhouse races, beans and cornbread and fiddle music: Welcome to Hootin an Hollarin

Royalty in the making Hootin an Hollarin begins at 5:45 p.m. Thursday as Gainesville Mayor Gail Reich extends her welcome to the 60th celebration of the beloved festival. Then, after a performance by the Rio band, the annual Hootin an Hollarin queen pageant begins at 7:30 p.m. These 10 contestants will smile their brightest smiles and charm the crowd with their country-style wit and wisdom as they vie for the crown. Front row, from left: Brandi Johnson, Emory Warden, Savannah Bushner, Jillian Morse. Back: Jasmine Hall, Jessie Latham, Victoria Smith, Haddie Parker and Emily Green.

Contestant Marayia Deatherage was not available for the group photo.

Welcome to the 60th celebration of Hootin an Hollarin, one of the longest-running festivals in Missouri. For the next three days, the Gainesville square will be transformed from its normal quiet, week-day business tempo into a vibrant mixture of country music, talented crafters and down-home chefs serving up Ozarks culture and heritage, past and present. 

This year’s festival, which kicks off at 5 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, and continues until to Saturday night, Sept. 18, has been widely anticipated by many festival goers after last year’s Hootin an Hollarin was canceled due to the covid pandemic.

“Everything to do with organizing a festival is harder to pull together after it’s been canceled the year before,” longtime chairperson Nancy Walker told the Times Monday. “So it has been more difficult this year than in past years, but all in all, I think it’s going to be a real good one – as long as the weather doesn’t fake us out.”

As of Monday, the weather forecast predicts a progressively warmer pattern with Thursday’s highs in the mid-80s, Friday’s highs in the upper-80s and Saturday’s temperatures set to reach 90 degrees. Low temperatures will likely be in the mid-60s. The chance of rain is low for all three days of the festival. 

“We’re really excited about the rock climbing wall and paddle boats,” Walker said, referring to a new vendor this year, Mid-Mo Fun, explaining that the committee has attempted to have a rock climbing wall at the festival for several years but was not able to secure one until this year. “That’s going to be pretty neat,” Walker said.

Mid-Mo Fun will be set up in the Century Bank of the Ozarks parking lot. The vendor will also have an inflatable slide and will also be dishing up a variety of traditional “fair food.”  

This year’s festival centers around the theme “Celebrating 60 Years of Hootin an Hollarin.”



The 2021 live-music lineup is an eclectic mix of Hootin an Hollarin newcomers and longtime favorites. 

The band Rio will play at 6 p.m. Thursday, just before the queen pageant. 

Friday’s music lineup begins at 10:30 a.m. with gazebo picking (in the gazebo on the northwest corner of the courthouse lawn) followed at 11 a.m. by the Sunny Dee band with special guest 11-year-old Jessica Suit. The rest of the day will follow this musical schedule: 11:30 a.m. Joe Myers; 12:30 p.m. Sunny Dee and special guest 10-year-old Regan Blackburn on fiddle; 4:30 p.m. Backyard Bluegrass; 5:30 p.m. Stringed Union; and 7:30 p.m. the Baker Family. 

Saturday’s music includes 11 a.m. Backyard Bluegrass as well as gospel singing in the gazebo; at noon the Jericho Quartet performs; 1 p.m. McCool Clan; 3:30 p.m. Missouri 65; 5 p.m. Michia Jenkins; 6 p.m. Magnolia Wind; and 7:30 p.m. New Grass Attack. 

Musicians Ashley Hull Forrest, Kim Lansford, David Scrivner and Nathan McAlister will be back to perform live square dance music all three nights beginning at 9 p.m. 


Thursday night’s queen pageant

Ten contestants have signed up for this year’s Hootin an Hollarin queen pageant, which will begin at 7:30 Thursday night. Queen pageant directors Becki Strong and Jerri Sue Crawford have redesigned this year’s contest to be more covid-aware, spacing the contestants on stage to social distance and discontinuing some elements, such as the contestants’ traditional opening square dance. 

Returning queen pageant judges include KY3 morning meteorologist Brandon Beck of Springfield, Stewart Brunner, general manager of KPFM, KKTZ and KOMT radio stations in Mountain Home, Arkansas; and Hootin an Hollarin’s first Miss Sweetie Pie, Mickey Smith VanNess of Rogersville. They will be joined by new judges Melissa McGill, the 2004 Miss Rodeo Oregon, who lives in Ava and serves as vice president of Ms. Rodeo Missouri Inc., and Ozark County native Mike Breeding, who has owned a State Farm Insurance agency in Springfield since 1981 and still maintains the family home in Gainesville. 

While the judges are tallying their votes, Ozark County Presiding Commissioner John Turner will recognize this year’s citizen of the year, Kathryn Atkinson, and parade marshal, Nancy Walker, on stage. 


Other events

Friday brings a lineup of fun events including the 2 p.m. costume parade, followed by the 3:15 p.m. Little Cedar Pete and Lil’ Miss Addie Lee contest, open to 4- and 5-year-olds; both events will be on the east side of the square. The annual bed races will be held at 5 p.m. Friday, followed by the outhouse races at 5:30 p.m. on the west side of the square between City Hall and Molly’s Salon and Boutique. At 7 p.m. Friday, Ozark County’s four FFA groups are hosting the first annual Bull Blast, a bull-riding event,  at the Gainesville Saddle Club grounds on Main Street a few blocks north of the square. Admission is $5 per person; all proceeds benefit the county’s FFA chapters. 

Saturday kicks off at 8:30 a.m. with the Hillbilly 5K run/walk beginning in front of City Hall. At 9 a.m. the archery and shotgun shoot will be held in the grassy area on the far side of the Barney Douglas Memorial Bridge. At 10 a.m. organizers will showcase the annual pet show near the main stage, as well as a horseshoe pitching contest at the saddle club grounds. At 11:30 a.m. the Hootin an Hollarin pie contest will be held, and the Big Parade will roll through town and around the square at 2 p.m. This year’s parade will feature five marching bands and a number of vintage cars. Parade chair Kerrie Zubrod says they’re hoping more floats will enter this year’s parade. Those wishing to participate should show up before 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the MoDOT shed on MM Highway behind and just west of Dollar General. The calling contests will be held at 4:30 p.m. Saturday on the main stage. At 7 p.m., the winners of the Hootin an Hollarin raffles will be announced on the main stage. 

Square dancing will be held from 9 a.m. to midnight each night of the festival. This year’s Hootin an Hollarin quilt show will be located on the east side of the square next to Sweet Little Things Bakery; quilts will be viewable from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. 


Free fun for young’ns

Free kids games, including a corn tub dig, Simon Says, soda-bottle ring toss and chalk fun, will operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Shelter Insurance kids’ corner, located off the southwest side of the square in front of Shelter Insurance. Terrapin races will also be held there at 10:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Kids who come to the kids’ corner just before the 2 p.m. Big Parade on Saturday will receive free balloons. 

Another set of free kids games, including old-time sack races, Simon Says and egg races will be held at 6 p.m. Friday on the north side of the courthouse lawn. At 4 p.m. Saturday, old-fashioned free kids games, including a hula hoop contest, seed-spitting contest and more will be held on the northwest corner of the square across from City Hall. 

Ozark County Times

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