The morning air was brisk and slightly windy, wafting a sweet smell of funnel cake and hot chocolate throughout the Hodgenville town square.
Dozens of people came from miles away to take part in one of the city’s biggest celebrations — Lincoln Days, an annual festival commemorating the life and work of the 16th U.S. president, Abraham Lincoln, who was born in Hodgenville in 1809. With a rich history dating back to 1975, according to the event’s website, Lincoln Days is an increasingly popular attraction in the area.
Amid the crowd of over 1,000 people, which amassed Saturday from early morning and into the night, Lincoln lookalikes were at every turn dressed to the nines in a crisp suit and tall top hat. Women in elaborate dresses waltzed in between onlookers on their way to a lookalike competition of former first lady Mary Todd Lincoln, the soft reds and yellows of their costumes drawing eyes from every angle.
Celebrators young and old laughed and chatted while walking through a number of small shops set up along the square and near the town creek front. A sense of gratitude emanated from workers behind stands selling trinkets and homemade goods, as they greeted each customer with a wholehearted “hello” and grin.
Among the crowd was Gil Myers, who was working a Republican voters stand.
“[My favorite part of Lincoln Days is] the history and meeting people, seeing neighbors and friends,” Myers said as he stood in a shaded area by his stand. “It’s a wonderful time when the weather is good.”
A Hodgenville native myself, watching children adorn cotton candy-coated grins and adventure among the festival’s many sights reminded me of when I was a young girl running through the crowd with my dad. Everything seemed so big and exciting then, and I used to tug him through the crowd without worry, staring in awe at every stand I passed.
This sentiment heightened during “pioneer games,” a variety of citizen-participated activities such as wood splitting, shelling corn by hand and crowd favorite, the “pole ride,” a competition involving two participants balanced on a log above a pit of muddy water. Provided only a pillow for both defense and attacking, the goal is to avoid falling into the murky water below.
Several musicians played during the games for whoever took a break to listen, standing on sidewalks and stages alike. Alexia Trumbo of Hodgenville sang on the square with guitarist Noah Konsavage, her fiance.
“It’s a really special tradition, because it brings so many people together,” Trumbo said fondly.
She referred to Lincoln Days as being in the “true spirit of Hodgenville.” A Colombia, Kentucky, native. Konsavage experienced the celebration for his first time.
“It’s cool seeing the American spirit coming out in this small town,” Konsavage said as he fiddled with his guitar case.
The event reached its peak during the Lincoln Day Parade, which included everything from fire trucks, tractors and convertibles carrying waving LaRue County officials and “Distinguished Young Women” winners from around the city. The county high school’s own band marched in time while playing the school’s fight song proudly throughout.
Though now older, I still felt that childhood awe as I drifted through the people I grew up with. The celebration has definitely changed, but it still felt like home.
Features reporter Taylor Metcalf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.