A century ago, the citizens of Demopolis gave the world something to crow about.
After all, it wasn’t every day that President Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller and Hollywood celebrities donated roosters to auction and raise funds to complete the nation’s first cross-country paved highway.
This April 13, Demopolis will honor its centennial Rooster Auction through Rooster Day, a celebration spotlighting small-town Alabama as the state approaches its 200th birthday.
“We created Rooster Day to celebrate our unique heritage, talented artists and community spirit,” said Kirk Brooker of the Marengo County Historical Society (MCHS), which coordinates the event. “Rooster Day has an old-school, Americana vibe that’s great for the whole family, especially during Alabama’s bicentennial.”
In 1919, the first Rooster Auction helped finance what is now called the Rooster Bridge over the Tombigbee River connecting Marengo and Sumter counties. The bridge was a critical link in the Dixie Overland Highway and helped spur economic growth for the area.
A hundred years later, live and silent auctions anchor Rooster Day in downtown Demopolis. Attendees flock to buy items — each referred to as “roosters” — like hunting trips, one-of-a-kind furniture and other goods. Keeping with tradition, a live rooster is auctioned, too, along with a rooster painting.
Since Rooster Day was revived in 2016, donations haven’t reached the 1919 tally of over $200,000 — but Brooker said he doesn’t mind.
“Those figures were on paper only,” he said. “Much less money was collected, and it took six years for the bridge to finally be competed. These days, we’re not raising funds to build a bridge, but we are working to bridge the gap between modern-day Alabama and our state’s settlers through historic preservation.”
Rooster Day events include the Rooster Fair in Public Square, which features live entertainment and vendors selling handmade arts, crafts and food.
“Rooster Day showcases vendors’ talents,” Brooker said. “It’s non-commercialized. We want to spotlight unique craftsmen and artisans from across Alabama.”
Other festivities are the Cock’s Crow 5K and 1K runs and Coop Games for kids, featuring a petting zoo, bouncy houses, crafts and old-fashioned games like egg tosses and sack races.
Rooster Day contributions benefit the MCHS. For more information, visit RoosterDayDemopolis.com, find Rooster Day on Facebook or call (334) 289-9644.