Yesterday, my folks, Sue, and I drove down to Dixon, Missouri, to see the twenty-seventh annual Cow Days festival. This was a new one for us, and Dixon is a little far south to be on our beaten path. You can tell from all the English surnames and place-names that you’re getting away from the German-occupied Weinstrasse region along the Missouri River.
It was warm yesterday, and even more than that, it was humid. But at least it didn’t rain on the parade.
What was the scene like? Well, first of all, you have to imagine Dixon without a festival—a small town without much going on. You could easily drive right through it. It’s that kind of town. No offense to its Chamber of Commerce, but it doesn’t exactly “bustle.”
Cow Days is actually a renewal of a series of festivals that Dixon merchants sponsored during the Great Depression, as a way to get folks to visit the town and spend money. The draw? A cow was given away to some lucky festival-goer. Yee-haw!
And that’s still the draw today—now, what other festival can you go to where you could potentially win a cow?? That’s basically what drew me there—what a thrill! (What the hell was I gonna do if I won it?)
(Probably take the $600 instead.) But still—“Win a cow!”
The festival covered about two blocks of downtown—vendors, craft booths, political booths. One whole section of food vendors—meat smoke, powdered sugar, and hot grease!
The parade was fun—very small-town; makes the Macy’s parade look like something from Alpha Centauri. Here are some photos.
There were lots of classic cars, of course, and vintage tractors, Farmalls and John Deeres.
There was patriotic everything, and lots of plugs for state and local candidates. This pickup went a little overboard, I thought, but it was fun to see its “windshield wipers” flippin’ away.
Of course, the fire trucks were all there, honking their horns, and everyone was handing out or pitching candy.
The different classes of the local high school had a competition for best float. This year’s theme was “Racing to Cow Days,” so there were a lot of checkered flags and NASCAR references. Combined with cattle and other barnyard imagery.
Yeah, go figure. But it gave everyone something to do and to be proud of.
And there were scads of queens and princesses. Here’s the Pulaski County Miss Outstanding Teen, handing out candy. If the look in one’s eyes and kind mannerisms count for anything, this teen queen looked to be a sincerely nice young woman.
I told you everyone was handing out candy. About three-quarters of the way through the parade, I noticed that much of the candy being tossed at the audience was just “bouncing off” people in the front row.
The best parts of the parade, as usual, were the bands. There was the Dixon combined middle and high school band, and the Lebanon High School Yellowjackets. They all played very well, and their horn carriage and other marching skills were admirable. Good job, kids!
I have to confess I can be a real turkey when high school marching bands go by—sometimes I can’t resist calling out some uber-popular name for kids in that age group: “ASHLEY!!” or “TYLER!!” Just to see if anyone looks up. I think it’s hilarious, but it makes Sue want to creep away and pretend she doesn’t know me.
The car show is always fun. Every time I see classic cars from the fifties and sixties, I find myself saying, yes, out loud: “Why did they ever stop putting vent windows on cars? They were so nice!” . . . Oh well.
What else do you do at Cow Days? Well, you visit the food vendors and look for new combinations of sugar, flour, and fat that you’ve never heard of before, and try them.
This year we had to try a “Kow Patty: The Redneck Funnel Kake,” advertised on the side of one of the food wagons. As far as I could tell, everything this particular food wagon sold was deep-fried—bloomin’ onions, deep-fried pickles, fried “twinkes” [sic], fried Oreo cookies, and “ribbon tater’s.” (Again, sic.)
Three bucks. I waited in line, got up to the window, waved my three bucks at the lady, and said, “I want a Kow Patty!”
She asked me, “Do you know what that is?”
I replied, “Nope! That’s why I’m ordering it!”
She described it: It’s a honey-bun that’s been dipped in batter, deep-fat fried, and topped with powdered sugar. “When we’re done with it, it looks a lot like a cow patty. . . . You still want it?”
I told her, “Sure! We have our cameras ready.”
Here you go.
Yes, it was sticky, greasy, molten inside, strangely delicious, and, as Anthony Bourdain said about deep-fried Twinkies: “wrong on so many levels.”
Finally, there’s the cow raffle. We did buy some tickets—Well? You can’t win if you don’t play. So far, to our knowledge, neither we nor any of our friends or family have been contacted, so I guess none of our tickets won. It was fun filling out the names and numbers. But if you’re reading this, and you get a call from the Dixon Cow Days people saying you “won a cow,” don’t put them off. You might actually have won it!