Pegleg Liar’s Contest

Saturday March 7, at American Legion Post 853

By Diana Lindsay

The 2020 Pegleg Smith Liars’ Contest will be held on Saturday, March 7, at the American Legion Post 853 at 4515 Borrego Springs Road, Borrego Springs, CA. The location is across from La Casa del Zorro. Mark your calendar for this new date – now always the first Saturday night in March. The contest was moved to the American Legion a couple years ago because of new State Park rules that no longer allow the contest to gather on State Park property without a special permit, a ranger present, and a million-dollar insurance policy. The new location has many advantages. It is closer into the center of Borrego Springs, has facilities, and is wind protected. This also means a much better sound system that does not have to fight the wind.

For years the contest was held the first Saturday night in April. CACTI (Committee to Accumulate Curious Tales of Incredibility) determined that there would be better attendance if the contest was moved up a month while it was still in the middle of the desert tourist season.  A chuckwagon has been added with treats for the attendees. It still starts at dusk. Come for the fun and for the spring wildflowers. All contestants receive a trophy and a certificate of participation. 

Contestant Alan Scrivener 2019

The Liars’ Contest is the longest on-going story-telling contest in the West. According to Academy Award Oscar winner and Hollywood art director Harry Oliver, the contest began informally in 1916 and formally in 1948. Judges select winners based on presentation, originality of story, costumes, and if Pegleg Smith is included in the presentation. 

Miss Kitty - 2019 winning contestant with head judge Jim McKenna and MC Phil Brigandi

Pegleg Smith was a real person—mountainman, horse thief, trader, and tall-tale-teller extraordinaire—Thomas Long Smith, who claimed to have found gold in the Anza-Borrego area en route to Los Angeles to sell pelts from animals he trapped. He spent is latter years in bars telling folks about his lost gold mine, often leading them on a trek to this desert area and then disappearing with what funds he was given by gullible folks, only to turn-up back at the bars to await another fool. He was considered the greatest prevaricator of all, according to Harry Oliver. 

Tales are limited  to 5 minutes. Points deducted by the judges for using the name “Pegleg Pete,” who was not Pegleg Smith. There is both an adult and children’s division. Mark your calendars! See the attached photos from last year’s Liars’ Contest. It is always an uproariously good time.


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