Pilot truthful story and photos
by Andrea Barkan
The spirit of Hathaway Jones, master tall tale spinner, crept into 15 people in Gold Beach High School's multipurpose room Saturday night as they took to the stage, channeled a variety of country accents and told one whopper after another.
Hathaway Jones was a contract mail carrier who traveled up and down the Rogue River telling tall tales to everyone on his route, from the late 1800s to the 1930s, Bernice Torrez said.
Torrez and the rest of the Friends of Hathaway Jones organized Saturday's "sixth edition of the 77th annual Hathaway Jones Tall Tales Festival."
The festival which was actually the sixth annual featured a pre-show performance by the Beach Belles, a 10-member singing group from Shore Pines Assisted Living Facility.
The main event pitted 18 competitors in three divisions (junior, intermediate and adult) against one another to find out who could tell the tallest tale.
Renee Brooks won the judges' approval with her yarn about how Hathaway Jones was actually a woman who took experimental male hormones to make a quick buck.
She won first prize in the adult division and took home the rotating mail bag trophy and $300 donated by Port Hole Cafe.
Other first place winners were Colton Wentworth in the intermediate division and the junior tag team Kipp Marstall and Joseph Saxon.
Both junior and intermediate first place winners received $100, provided by Brian and Pauline McNulty.
William Veloso, 6, snagged second place among the juniors for his fish tale about a fish he caught and kept who liked to have dinner in a tuxedo and gold tie and who eventually died when it fell in the bathtub and drowned.
Jo Hanson took second in the adult division with her rhyming tale of an encounter with Hathaway himself.
Second place prize for the adults was $200 from Shore Pines. For juniors and intermediates, second place winners received $50, provided by the McNultys.
Emmie Yeiter, of the intermediate division, won second place when she shared the secret of how kissing rock got its name with the audience of about 90.
Terri Strain, of the adult division, won third place and $100 from Cal-Ore Life Flight for her fish tale.
Third place winners in the intermediate and junior divisions were Casey Ludwig and McKenna Marstall, respectively.
Aloura DiGiallonardo, 13, entered the contest with a tale about the Mary D. Hume, a badly-damaged Gold Beach boat.
"I like the story-telling thing," she said. "I like to kind of make a fool of myself."
Sitting next to her mother, DiGiallonardo claimed she was not a great liar, only "a good exaggerator. I'm good at telling gullable people stories," she said.
The festival was created partially for fun and partially as a way to honor and continue the oral history tradition, Torrez said.
Hathaway Jones was often the only contact those on his mail route had with the outside world, she said. He was their source of entertainment.
The contest is "both to honor him and to work at keeping the oral history tradition alive," Torrez said.
Turnout was low compared to other years because the committee's shoestring budget did not allow for much advertising, she said.
Just two years ago the event drew about 450 people, she said.
"Due to some unfortunate events last year, we were starting on a shoestring budget this year," Torrez said. "It will take us a couple years to build it back up."