Friday, April 15, 2016

A Hoss is a Hoss, of Course

One thing about growing up in a small town is the community events that are held throughout the year.  Owingsville has several notable events that have become part of the local tradition; May Day and the Lion's Club Horse show are two lasting events that still draw crowds today.  But, not so long ago, there was a time when Owingsville was filled with vendors, food, and outhouses on hot July days....wait, outhouses?
There was a local tradition each July that brought Owingsville together much like the May Day Festival called Hoss Tradin' Days.  Now, for the folks who are not from a small town or have never heard of the term, a hoss is a southern term for horse.  Back in the early days, every second Monday was court day, and vendors filled the streets selling produce, farm implements and livestock.  Horses, hogs and cattle were bought and traded all through the day while local merchants opened their shops for all to browse and buy the latest things.  Local saloons and taverns (yes, at one time Owingsville had such places) would be busy with patrons quenching their thirst and telling tall tales.  The most busy times for court day activity were the months of March, April and October. In addition to all the livestock bartering, street minstrels played their songs to anyone who would hear them and toss a coin into a hat.  Politicians mingled and shook hands of prospective voters during election times, and ministers preached the Gospel to the crowds.  As the modern age approached, the street spectacles of court days in Owingsville and 'hoss' trading went by the wayside.
Owingsville and Bath County went through a revitalization period in the 1960's and 1970's with focus on bringing people back into the town.  The Chamber of Commerce proposed and helped organize a modern era trade day to go in conjunction with the Lion's Club Horse Show, dubbed Hoss Tradin' Days.  Although there wasn't any livestock paraded down Main Street, stores opened their doors, vendors set up food booths and a small flea market atmosphere brought the town alive each July.  It was similar to the annual May Day Festival, without the parade.  Usually, an exhibition of some sorts in the middle of Main Street entertained the crowds, while bands played in the 'pocket' behind the courthouse or behind the library.  Perhaps the most entertaining event during this day was the outhouse races.  Teams consisting of local business groups built mobile outhouse props, some quite elaborately made, and pushed them from the intersection of North Court and Main Streets to the stop light.  It was all in the name of fun and friendly competition, with prize money awarded, that was usually always donated to a charity.  Prominent business owners, political figures, and elected officials got into the outhouses and hoped that the wheels remained sturdy and the structure didn't fall apart during the short race.  One particular race I recall involved late businessman Parley Richardson, who was in an elaborately designed creation.  As the team pushed his outhouse to the finish line, Parley, being the jokester he was, darted out of the outhouse in a pair boxers and his pants around his knees.  The crowd roared in laughter as he ran across the finish line ahead of the team. 
In 1992, I was a firefighter recruit with the Owingsville Fire Department.  We made a simple outhouse for the race that July and I was chosen to ride upon the throne, pun intended.  Our team consisted of Norman Crouch, Mike Crockett, Ricky Faudere, and Fire Chief Wes Everman.  We raced against Champ Maze's Law Office and came in second that day, but it was a fun event to have been a part of.  That was the last true Hoss Tradin' Days event I attended, as I left for military service soon afterward.
Hoss Tradin' Days lost its spark sometime soon after I participated; time, funding and other methods of entertainment became the biggest culprits in the demise.  The Chamber of Commerce attempted to revamp Hoss Tradin' Days in 2012 and relocated it to the Miller Shopping Plaza just outside of town.  Several local vendors set up booths to sell items, but it lacked the excitement of the former days.  Eventually, the idea fell short and again, Hoss Tradin' Days was scrapped.  Many residents have fond memories of the summer festival in town, some have expressed a longing for it to return; perhaps one day, Owingsville will again see the days of rolling outhouses down Main Street.

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