Hobo is a word with many possible origins, the National Hobo Convention’s website points out. It might come from the Latin homo bonus, meaning “good man;” it may have been coined by a group of soldiers returning home from the Civil War who were “homeward bound;” and migratory workers during the 18th century were often referred to as “hoe boys.” These workers, according to the council that rules over the convention, were the original ‘boes, since they worked as they traveled.
“The hobo is a migratory worker, some with a special skill or trade, others ready to work at any task, but always willing to work to make his way,” the Britt, Iowa, website concludes. They are not bums - and they resent being labeled as such. Bums, they say, are people who do not work, people who beg and ask for handouts and money.
And every year without fail hundreds of hobos gather in Britt to celebrate their way of life. Organized by the local Chamber of Commerce, the National Hobo Convention is the largest gathering of hobos in the country. Traditionally, there is a big parade held every year and a king and queen are named–the official website has a list of winners going back to the very beginning - and a handful of other special events that includes a hobo 5K, a hobo memorial service, a hobo classic car show, and lots of musical entertainment. Britt is also host to the Hobo Museum year round, which cultivates hobo lore and artifacts.
Know Before You Go
The festival occurs once a year in August, with a schedule of events posted online in advance. Events take place all over Britt. The address listed above is for the Hobo Museum, which is at the epicenter of Britt's Hobo Days.