Rooster Day Auction set for April 13

Published 10:27 pm Monday, April 1, 2024

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By Jan McDonald

Special to The Times

What has become the second-most anticipated event in Demopolis – Rooster Day – kicks off with the Rooster Auction Saturday, April 13.

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A week later, Rooster Day itself will be an all-day affair in the Public Square featuring family-friendly and, for the most part, free events.

Sponsored by the Marengo County Historical Society (MCHS), Rooster Day celebrates the famous rooster auction of 1919 held to raise funds to build a bridge over the Tombigbee River between Marengo and Sumter counties. To raise funds for the upkeep of its two historic home museums, the society held its first Rooster Day in 2016.

The event, like so many others, was suspended in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic, said Kirk Brooker, curator for the MCHS. In 2021 it held what Brooker refers to as Rooster Day Lite, but the event came roaring back the next year.

From the first the organizers wanted to highlight local artisans and craftsmen instead of offering mass-produced items. At first it was difficult to attract such vendors, but word has started to spread. 

“As it stands now, we have more than we’ve ever had,” Brooker said, as applications continue to come in. “We’re sticking to all handmade items for sale.”

For the first few Rooster Days, both the auction and the day events were held on the same day, but volunteers burned out, Brooker said. Last year, the event was separated over two weekends, allowing everyone to enjoy themselves.

Brooker said talk had gone on for several years to hold an event like Rooster Day before it finally came to pass.

“The timing was right. We had people in place,” he said.

The chairperson that year was Lisa Compton who led a committee of eager volunteers. There was energy, Brooker continued. “The whole town came together.”

From the first, one of the most popular ways to generate interest for Rooster Day were the gaily painted wooden roosters visiting businesses and individuals who contributed to the fund-raiser.
“They love getting their pictures with an eight-foot rooster,” Brooker said with a grin.

The society has 10 roosters. Eight of them travel, one is displayed at McHAM and another at the Jefferson County Store.

Brooker freely admits he never was interested in history until he started working with the historical society. The late Gwyn Turner, an enthusiastic fan of Marengo County history, once told him, “You entertain first; you educate second.”

Brooker has taken that advice to heart, especially when organizing MCHS events. He also is amazed at how everything seems to tie together.

When Rooster Day first started, local businessman Tom Culpepper Googled “rooster flag.” Finding one with a red rooster on a gold field, he ordered several and began selling them at Culpepper Electric. 

Doing his research on the flag, Brooker discovered it was the flag of the Wallonia region of the French-speaking part of Belgium. He thought it was appropriate since Demopolis was founded by the Napoleonic exiles from France. To add to the coincidence, at the initial rooster auction in 1919, one of the roosters was sponsored by the King of Belgium.

This is the first in a three-part series focusing on Rooster Day. Next week: What’s in store at the auction?