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      Sealed with a kiss: National Tom Sawyer Days gets its Tom and Becky

      National Tom Sawyer Days kicked off the Fourth of July weekend Thursday morning with its annual parade.

      The week-long celebration is a huge tourist attraction for Hannibal.

      It brings in shoppers, visitors and revenue for the city.

      But it's not all about money.

      Hundreds of people lined up on Broadway in Hannibal to see the annual Fourth of July parade.

      "I think there were a lot more floats and a lot more participants so it was great to see the outcome," Director of Hannibal's Conventions and Visitors Bureau Gail Bryant said. "I know the weather has contributed to it."

      Good weather can't take all the credit.

      The parade is held in conjunction with National Tom Sawyer Days. The celebration has been held annually for the past 58 years.

      One of the festivals longest standing and most competitive contest is the Tom and Becky program.

      "It's been a six-month long process for these children," Tom and Becky Coordinator Melissa Cummins said.

      Melissa Cummins is the coordinator for the Tom and Becky Program that was stated in 1956. After several tests, interviews and judging five Beckys and five Toms are chosen to be finalists to compete for the official couple title.

      "Our Toms and Beckys do anywhere from 200 to 300 appearances a year, depending on what they're requested for," Cummins said.

      Every Fourth of July the new Tom and Becky are chosen with a kiss on the cheek from the previous year's winners.

      This year's official couple is Nathan Lewton and Ashlyn Nichols.

      "I'm feeling shocked," Ashlyn Nichols said. "It hasn't even registered that I'm the official yet but it's really exciting and I'm looking forward to the year ahead."

      "I'm so excited and I mean coming in here I had a 20 percent chance of getting this," Nathan Lewton.said. "Even if I was top five, I knew I would have a great year and when Brooke handed me this pole I felt like I was in a dream. It was just so amazing to be the official Tom."

      The couple went strait to work after be given the official title. They made appearances all day.

      The couple says they hope to learn more about Hannibal's history during their time as Tom and Becky and are proud to keep this tradition going. Something coordinators say is the real meaning behind the festival.

      "A lot of people come out, just for that," Bryant said.