TwainFest and The Right to Vote

So often, “Free” family festivals are anything but. You have to pay for the games, the rides, the everything, and suddenly the “free” festival saps all your funds.

But the TwainFest in Old Town yesterday was truly free and also a lot of fun. In fact, it was so fun, the impossible happened– my 13-year-old ADMITTED she had a good time!
How about that.

Cadillac dropped us off to find parking, which is kind of hard to find in Old Town, so the girls and I went to look at the donkeys (free) who were by the (free) stable museum and the (free) blacksmith demo.

We saw huge puppets. Little Girl asked if Twain was Poe’s wife, probably because he was dressed in white and had tulle for hair, like a veil.





They had booths set up for word games. At one, you made up your own word; I was to make up a word for “how you feel when you’re trying to stay awake during a lecture.” I wrote, “slugstudious.” You could also add onto stories (the bit where everyone writes a few lines) in three different styles (adventure, gothic horror, and I forgot the other one). They had a puppet theater, “fishing” for words, a spelling bee, and more I can’t remember. There was a liar’s contest, music, monologues, and stories (it’s sponsored in part by Write Out Loud, the Playwrights Project, Lamb’s Players Theatre, and Cygnet Theatre). Pretty much every museum and store had something going on. All free.


The wooden box, above, is the question answerer. You write a question and stick it in the slot, and it begins rumbling and shaking back and forth, and spits out a preprinted card. Little Girl was AMAZED.


Each booth gave you a ticket, and when you got 5, you could go get a free book. We chose these two:



We also took a literacy test to see if we could qualify to vote. I guess it’s based on a real test from the era. Little Girl and I painstakingly took the test. (Yeah, we got the last answer wrong. Now that I am looking at it again. Actually no matter what, she found something wrong with everyone’s test.)




Then, in the most important lesson of the day, the woman stamped it.


(The actress really was in character here).


Women didn’t have the right to vote back then.

I explained this to Little Girl and she said, “WHAT? I don’t understand. What do you mean, women couldn’t vote? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?”

Now I remember when I learned this factoid, and it did not seem shocking at all to me the way it does to her. She can’t conceive of such a thing. What a visceral history lesson, for her to go through that test and get that big fat DENIED stamp. I don’t think she’ll forget.

Oh, and we also went to the Candy Store (an old-timey candy place). I think we spent about $5 on candy, and that was all the festival cost, plus the gas to get there.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

5 thoughts on “TwainFest and The Right to Vote

  1. Hi Margaret,

    I am interested in my book club reading your book “The Care and Handling of Roses With Thorns”. I want to know about the verbage used. It’s a Christian book club and I like ” clean” books, no profanity or sexual contents. Please let me know.

    Blessings, Cindy

      1. Great!! I also am interested in your book How to be an American housewife… can I set up a talk with you via cell phone with my book club?

  2. I’m glad to hear that Twainfest was a hit. I really wanted to go, but didn’t make it there. I loved the fact it was a free event that focused on literacy and not just kid rides and stuff.

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