Who could imagine having fun celebrating the president
best known for seeming to be unable or unwilling to do anything about the
Great Depression, which began on his watch?
Still, the celebration's as popular as a late '20s speakeasy, and Steve Brumfield,
owner of Manteo Booksellers, Manteo, N.C., the Outer Banks store
that since 1986 has hosted a Herbert Hoover party each year on the
former president's August 10 birthday, insisted that he is "not making
fun of Hoover."
Quickly he listed some of Hoover's accomplishments. "He wrote more than
40 books and lobbied for a national poem." He led efforts to provide
humanitarian and food relief aid in Europe during and after World War I
and helped give engineering assistance in China in the 1920s. He
created what eventually became the Hoover Institution at Stanford
University. He also loved fishing. "We show sides of Hoover most people
don't know," he explained.
The Hoover tradition goes back to Manteo Booksellers's beginnings,
Brumfield continued, "We started doing events right away. We looked at
things to tie in with and found some crazy stuff like National
Watermelon Spitting Day. Then we noticed August 10 was Hoover's
birthday. The idea snowballed. People thought it was kind of fun."
It took 16 years after first staging the Hoover party for a connection
between Hoover and Manteo to emerge. It
turned out that when he was Secretary of Commerce under President
Coolidge, Hoover traveled to the area to give out life saving service
awards. "Someone found a picture of Hoover on the docks here and a
letter he wrote to a resident thanking him for his hospitality,"
Brumfield noted. In addition, he came up with the committee that chose
the site of the Wright Brothers memorial. "Then we had reason to
celebrate," Brumfield laughed.
Over the years, the store has developed some traditions for the party.
For example, for the 20th Hoover party next Wednesday, Manteo will
serve "Happy Birthday Herbie" cakes, "Herbert Sherbert" punch and hold
a trivia contest based on Hoover "fun facts" posted throughout the
store that day. (One fact: Hoover was the first president born
west of the Mississippi.) The store also should have live music.
Besides the refreshments, the party's focus is on the Hoover
memorabilia the store has collected over the years and is displayed year
round in a kind of shrine. The cabinet includes photos, a few copies of
letters, some of Hoover's books, "a hat from Camp Hoover," even a Grant
Wood painting of the Hoover homestead.
Usually the Hoover party features an author, and this one would have
been a blockbuster, but unfortunately Adriana Trigiani, who's been
touring for her new novel, Rococo
, just canceled her appearance,
In at least one way, however, Trigiani will make an appearance--on
another of Brumfield's cool ideas. Each year, Manteo Booksellers sells
a T-shirt with the store's name on the front and a list of 20 authors
and events of that summer on the back, like a T-shirt for a band's tour.
By the way, Wednesday would have been Hoover's 131st birthday.
Manteo Booksellers may be contacted at P.O. Box 1520, Manteo, N.C. 27954; 252-473-1221; www.manteobooksellers.com