There are numerous hobo conventions throughout the United States each year. The ephemeral ways of hobo conventions are mostly dependent on the resources of their hosts. Some conventions are part of railroad conventions or "railroad days". Others are quasi-private affairs, hosted by long-time hobos. Still others are ad hoc—that is, they are held surreptitiously on private land. Some of these conventions are held in abandoned quarries along major rivers.
Most non-mainstream conventions are held at current or historical railroad stops. The most notable is the National Hobo Convention held in Britt, Iowa. The town first hosted the Convention in 1900, but there followed a hiatus of thirty-three years. Since 1934 the Convention has been held annually in Britt, on the second weekend in August.
The Britt Hobo Museum exhibits a smattering of hobo history and lore. Initially just a "Hobo Convention" museum, in the late 1990s it evolved into a fuller Hobo History museum. LeAnn Castillo, a local artist and the hobo painter, exhibits her portrait collection of hobo kings and queens since 1900. All of her paintings are made from photos.
Formal entertainment at the annual Convention begins before dusk, and is provided by a mix of active hobos, extended hobo families and non-hobo wannabees. Late after dark, the crowd leaves and the campfire becomes more informal. Satellite groups spring up. Stories are told—small and tall, poetry is recited, and cants are sung to the muted vibrations of banjos, guitars and harmonicas.
Activities officially begin the Thursday of the convention weekend with a lighting of the campfire and exercise of some hobo cultural traditions (Honoring the Four Winds) before the opening entertainment. On Friday morning many visit the hobo-corner of the cemetery to pay tribute to those who have "Caught the Westbound," with a hobo memorial service preceded by a local contingent of ex-military colorguard. Names of deceased hobos are recited (Roll Call). At around five o'clock on Friday afternoon a poetry reading attracts participants and a small crowd of onlookers.
Hobo-king candidates are screened the days before the annual King and Queen election and coronation. They are expected to have knowledge and experience in riding trains, and are evaluated for how well they would represent the hobo community. A quasi-qualified candidate is occasionally allowed to run. Any woman who is part of the hobo community may run for hobo Queen. On the Saturday morning there is a parade in the town pavilion, allowing onlookers to see those running for hobo king and queen in a last chance to campaign before the election in the early afternoon. Following the parade, mulligan stew is served to hundreds of people in the city park, cooked by local Boy Scouts. In early afternoon, the hobo King and Queen are elected by means of the volume of crowd applause.