Any child can be a main character of Mark Twain's landmark novel during Craig's Huck Finn Day on Saturday.
Children wearing ragged overalls, old-time dresses and toting homemade fishing poles mark the 51st annual fishing derby. Registration starts at 8 a.m. at Loudy-Simpson Park. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes for children in their respective age groups. Prizes also will be awarded to children who catch the first fish of the day on homemade poles.
Dr. Leo Schneider was responsible for starting the first Huck Finn Day in 1953.
One of this year's organizers, Ray Talkington, said he remembers a Huck Finn Day years ago when his then-7-year-old son, Brad, who is now 45, won a prize at the event. At that time, the fishing derby was held in a blocked-off irrigation ditch near Craig Middle School.
"It's pretty neat, really," he said. "It's a family type of thing. We encourage younger people to get involved."
The Colorado Division of Wildlife helps by stocking the pond with fish, handing out some free fishing poles and providing worms as bait. The Veterans of Foreign War Post 4265 and the Ladies Auxiliary sponsor the event. The derby usually draws about 200 participants. Free hot dogs, hamburgers and soft drinks will be served.
Children are encouraged to dress like Huck Finn and Becky Thatcher. Huck's costume might include ragged overalls, a ragged straw hat, a corncob pipe and a freckled face. Huck Finn carried a willow fishing pole and walked barefoot. Becky's costume may include a long full skirt, an apron, two braids, a sunbonnet, white stockings or pantalets, black "Mary Janes," white gloves and a parasol.
No fishing license is required for the day, but contestants will be limited to four fish from the stocked pond.
Talkington said in years past that children seemed to dress up more for the derby. During the 1950s and 60s, that may have been because children were used to wearing clothing reminiscent of Huck and Becky.
"We want to encourage every kid in town to be there," he said. "It's a fun time for everyone."