“Have a Hoppy Day!”
Old friends and familiar faces congregated May 1-3, 2015 to honor the last Hopalong Cassidy Festival. Started in 1991, this year marked the 25th Anniversary and the final year for the festival. But the enthusiasm did not end even though participants knew the end was in sight.
William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd grew up in the Cambridge area where he attended Park School and the Second Presbyterian Church. The Silver Anniversary of the festival celebration took place at Pritchard Laughlin Civic Center near Cambridge, Ohio.
Laura Bates, founder, has been the driving force of the Hopalong Cassidy Festival all 25 years. Laura became good friends with Grace, Hoppy’s wife, and Laura’s knowledge and collection of Hoppy memorabilia grew and grew. When Laura speaks of those dedicated followers who attended year after year, she fondly calls them “faithful buckaroos”.
Getting a festival together requires lots of hard work. Making the connections with nearly a hundred vendors in itself would take a lot of time. Add to that the necessity to connect with old western stars and you can see how overwhelming the task would be. Besides, the general public today does not have the intense interest about those old westerns as those who grew up watching them.
Old friends, who dressed as look-a-likes, enjoyed posing together. John Wayne, Lash LaRue, and Bob Steele definitely looked their part. Most people were selling pictures, but some were giving them away. Vendors set up tables selling all kinds of Western and cowboy items.
Most participants come across as common ordinary folks, who enjoyed talking about their life and connection to Hopalong Cassidy. One interesting gentleman, Francis Reeves, had won six Hoppy look-alike contests over the years. His initial contact came through Fred Scott, who sent a card to him telling him about the festival.
Twenty years ago Francis married his wife in Cambridge at the Second Presbyterian Church, the same church Hoppy attended. At 85 years old, Francis is still muscle bound and full of energy. When asked about the end of the festival, Francis remarked, “Everything comes to an end.” He looks forward to better things ahead.
Fuzzy of American Westerns designed the logo for the festival. This year he designed a special tee shirt for the 25th anniversary. He included a picture of Laura Bates on that tee, as a special surprise to her. But like many, Fuzzy travels around the country with his acts and displays, covering seventeen different states.
Hoppy plans for the future include a bronze statue of Hopalong Cassidy in Cambridge, Ohio. The Hopalong Cassidy Museum will still contain Laura’s collection and she will probably stop by and charm visitors with her stories.
Everyone remained in good spirits even when the festival came to a close. One cowgirl said she would continue at other festivals in this part of the country.”I’ve been horsing around all my life,” she quipped, “and not ready to stop.”