Organizers of a Wiccan gathering say they will move the event to Columbia this weekend after being told they weren’t welcome in Hannibal.
Rose Wise of the Ozark Avalon Church of Wicca said her group contracted with the Hannibal Inn in August for a “Hibernate in Hannibal” convention to celebrate the pagan holiday Imbolc. On Friday, she said the group received a letter from the Hannibal Inn stating the contract had been “respectfully declined.”
The inn’s letter cited concerns about “threats of boycotts and protests,” Wise said, adding that the letter went on to say “the overwhelming amount of concern that has been generated is a genuine threat to the Hannibal Inn.”
Wise said the church group stayed at the Hannibal Inn last year without any major problems, although a local college group threatened to protest while they were there.
Desk clerks at the Hannibal Inn declined comment Wednesday, and efforts to reach the manager were unsuccessful.
Catherine Rahe, executive director of the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she was unaware of any possible boycotts or protest plans.
“This office has not heard a peep,” Rahe said.
Although the Wiccan church has been refused at other hotels in the past due to availability or space considerations, Wise said this was the first time a contract has not been honored.
Wise said her church has more than 100 members and is located in rural Cooper County about 20 miles west of Columbia on 160 acres. Wise said the church, which is incorporated in the state of Missouri, celebrates most of its holidays outside, following the European Wheel of the Year. The eight major yearly holidays are celebrated in concord with the movement of the sun.
This weekend, the congregation is celebrating the Imbolc, which means “in the belly.”
“It’s the time when the woods and fields start to come alive again,” Wise said.
Ozark Avalon has about 15 rooms and a ballroom booked at the Columbia Quality Inn for the weekend, Wise said. Despite the recent change of plans, Wise said she hopes to have 100 people come to the event, which will include speakers, vendors, workshops and entertainment.