“Oyez, oyez, oyez!” calls the town crier.
“Be it heard the region over that the North American Town Crier Championship shall be held in the fair city of Anacortes, Washington, on Saturday, the first day of glorious October, and on Sunday, the second day of October. All are citizens are hereby invited to witness this historic event.”
Heralded by the ringing of a bell and unfurling of a parchment scroll, so would have gone the cry. Since Medieval days, criers informed townspeople (many of whom could neither read nor write) of the news of their city. Royal proclamations, funeral arrangements, market days, advertisements, even salmon fishing seasons were belted out for all to hear by the local town crier, or bellman, an officer of the court.
The tradition continues today in towns and cities around the world. Outfitted in elaborate and colorful robes, white stockings and tri-corner hats, the town crier’s role today is ceremonial, but no less impressive. The American Guild of Town Criers has about 30 members. Anacortes is the only Washington town with a registered crier.
Judy Jewell served as Anacortes’ first and longest crier. She was replaced four years ago by Richard Riddell, a classically trained opera and theater performer who took easily to the art form.
Come see, hear and judge for yourself as 14 criers from across Canada and the United States compete in three rounds. Each round includes 120-word-long “cries” — a “Home Town” cry, “Amusing cry and “Advertising” cry. Criers will be judged on their content, sustained loudness, accuracy, deportment, and uniforms, among other criteria. The 2011 North American Town Crier Champion will be crowned at the organization’s final dinner that evening.
“This is certain to be an impressive and unique event. And it’s the first time it’s been held on the West Coast,” says host crier Richard Riddell, Anacortes Town Crier and reigning American Champion Crier. “It’s free and fun for the whole family,” he adds.