Hootin an Hollarin started its long and illustrious history in 1961 when a bunch of local folks decided that if they didn't start paying attention to the heritage of the Ozarks, it was going to slip away down memory lane. Doyle Sanders, county agent for Community Affairs, worked with the local county agent, Fred Oehring, to help develop a community interest in five different areas. A meeting was held to bring country people, town people, and resort owners together. More than 200 people attended the meeting. Marvin Kirkpatrick held an additional meeting.
Addie Lee Lister (she and husband Roy Lister operated Lister Drug Store on the square) suggested a special day with booths to demonstrate early homemaking crafts such as quilting, soap making, molasses making, hominy making, spinning, and other crafts would be of interest to people. Her idea was met with enthusiasm, and she was asked to head a committee and "come up with something." The idea of Hootin an Hollarin was born.
Ed Petterson, an artistic woodworker retiree from the Chicago area came up with the name of the festival, and he created the Cedar Pete logo that was used to publicize the event. He also designed a black felt hillbilly hat that organizers sold to promote the festival.
Hootin an Hollarin was first held in October of each year. The three-day festival was attended by large crowds. Local citizens dressed in traditional pioneer clothing, and many wore items left by ancestors. Store windows in Gainesville displayed items of the past.
All kinds of people pitched in to help. Don Sullivan offered to come and bring his musical group. Shorty Wallace raised cane and then cooked it down to make sorghum, Marie Crisp and Iva Lawson Friend worked over black kettles making lye soap and hominy. All this was great, but Addie Lee really wanted a still (not an actual working one). She asked all around town, but no one knew anything about a still or who might own one. One morning she stepped out of her house in Gainesville to find metal parts and things that would make a still. She was trying to figure out how to put it together, but the only advice she got was that she was doing it wrong. Eventually it got fixed, and she called the state "regulators" to make sure it could be used. It just had to have holes punched in certain parts.
Loyd Evans, a Springfield radio entertainer, was the first master of ceremonies. The festival was filled with contests such as hog calling, cow calling, turkey calling, archery, a turkey shoot, fiddlin', a greased-pig scramble, cake walk, fox horn blowing, sack races, and a "coon" chase. There were also horse-drawn wagons and buggies.
The courthouse was home to dance platforms and demonstrations of a horse-drawn sorghum mill and soap making. J. W. Crawford demonstrated riving shakes (shingles) with a froe. A stake-and-rider rail fence was set up, and an inoperable moonshine still sat beside a log cabin.
Hootin an Hollarin could best be described as a people festival. Over the years, the fun-filled days have become a "homecoming" of sorts for area folks. People plan family reunions and school class reunions around the festival. It is a time to celebrate the days of our past and the generations of family and friends to come.
Since its beginning, Hootin an Hollarin has had a special focus on old-time ways and celebrating with family and friends. The Courthouse Square in Gainesville, Missouri, becomes home to the three-day event each September, starting the third Thursday of the month. It is one of the oldest festivals in Missouri and through the years has brought fond memories to older generations. Hootin and Hollarin is always fun for the young and the young at heart.