National Hobo Convention

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The National Hobo Convention is held on the second weekend of every August[1] since 1900[2] in the town of Britt, Iowa, organized by the local Chamber of Commerce, and known throughout the town as the annual "Hobo Day" celebration. The National Hobo Convention is the largest gathering of hobos, rail-riders, and tramps, who gather to celebrate the American traveling worker.[3]


Traditionally there has been a parade on the Saturday at 10:00 a.m., where everyone can let their hobo spirit soar as they participate in the parade. A phrase that describes the parade is, "Some in rags, some in tags, some in velvet gowns." According to the Chamber of Commerce:

"Whether you're part of this large grand parade, or a spectator, the spirit of the day is sure to capture your mood. Marching bands, queens, business floats, children, adults, and hobos all come down the streets in one long line and share the fun that only a Hobo Convention can provide."

Other events[edit]

Other events during Hobo weekend include a Hobo 5K & Hobo 10K Walk/Run, Hobo King & Hobo Queen coronation, Hobo Museum, Hobo Auction, Hobo Memorial Service, Hobo Sunday Outdoor Church Service, Hobo Classic Car Show, Hobo Arts and Crafts Show and various hobo musical entertainment. Some years there is a carnival with a ferris wheel, rides suitable for pretty young children and a small "Midway" with typical carnival games. Britt is pretty far off the beaten path, so it is difficult to attract a large carnival. The Hobo Jungle is open to the public.

Hobos and tramps and hobos-at-heart begin arriving in town the week prior to the actual convention. They usually make camp in the "National Hobo Jungle" which is bordered on its north side by the railroad tracks. The Jungle has a donated boxcar on display, and depending upon the mood of the city that particular year, may or may not be unlocked during the Convention, and tramps may or may not be permitted to sleep within it. Many people camp out in pop-up tents or just rig a tarp off the fence that marked the border of the railroad's property. Police officers and railroad special agents ("bulls") enforce the trespassing laws pretty strictly. There is also The Pavilion, which is a large covered picnic table area with attached bathrooms with showers. There are no motels or hotels in Britt, so if you wish to attend the Convention and stay in town, you must provide your own accommodations. Be aware: the hotels in nearby towns are often full well before the Convention. There is a growing contingent of recreational vehicle people, but there are no hook-ups, not for shore power and not for dumping sewage. Running a generator all night in your RV to power your air conditioner is considered to be a serious faux pas----people are trying to sleep. The rail riders and true tramps regard the Class A RV'ers with considerable disdain. People who came into town on their thumb or who drove in by van or pick-up truck are more common. There is no drinking in the Jungle allowed. There are several nearby taverns, though, with Dale's "Hob Nob" Bar being the most popular among the tramps. It is a generally pretty rowdy establishment at night during the NHC. The City of Britt hires numerous police officers from other cities to help police the 25,000 tourists in town, and they do not tolerate ANY use of drugs. In recent years there has been an increasingly aggressive police presence, and this has resulted in fewer and fewer actual hobos attending the National Hobo Convention. They usually go to other gatherings that are more tolerant of typical tramp behavior and culture, and which have a less robust law enforcement deployment. Trying to ride a freight train into the NHC is definitely a bad idea. The rail line to Britt comes from Mason City, IA, where the bulls are on 24-7 alert for trespassers during the days before and after the Convention. The last person to do it successfully was Queen Stray Cat Julie, a very attractive female Canadian trainhopper of great renown, in 2003, if I recall correctly. It caused such a stir that the bulls have really become obsessed with preventing anyone from riding a train into Britt. I strongly advise anyone to avoid trying it, because you will wind up in jail.


  1. ^ Hobo Convention Website/ Retrieved August 2009.
  2. ^ Moon, Gypsy: "Done and Been", page 24. Indiana University Press, 1996.
  3. ^ Britt, Iowa - Hobo Convention Information. Retrieved August 2009.

External links[edit]