The June 22 number of the Review has just hit Californian shores, and contains a glowing article on Howard Days by Project Pride correspondent Arlene Stephenson. Cimmerian readers well remember Arlene’s article “The Fire That Spread Around the World” for V3n2 (February 2006), which contained a host of harrowing and uplifting stories from the Cross Plains Fire that didn’t make the front page of the CNN website, or for that matter any of the usual Howardian venues. Here she gives a flavorful small-town spin on the centennial proceedings that accurately captures the mood of the event.
“Censational” Centennial Celebration
by Arlene Stephenson, The Cross Plains Review, June 22, 2006
How does one measure the success of an event? By the number of people in attendance? By the number of volunteers involved in making it happen? By the variety of programs and activities offered? By the geographic scope of states and communities represented? By the comments of those in attendance?
By any of these standards, the recent Robert E. Howard Centennial Days were an outstanding success. Scholars and fans came to Cross Plains to experience a few hours or a few days with other folks having the same interest in one of the greatest pulp fiction writers ever to put words on paper. From the first guest to arrive from Washington D.C. to the last guest from Eastland, a steady stream of visitors filed through the local library and the Howard House Museum. In that body of visitors, one could hear conversations in Swedish and German; exchanges with British and Canadian accents and even the accents from the Carolinas and Maryland were interesting to our Texas ears.
Number wise, some interesting facts came to light. The registration book at the Museum showed that 240 people had registered from 22 states, Washington D.C. and the four countries mentioned above. The Library hosted one panel discussion that drew way beyond a “standing room only” crowd. Librarian Cherry Shults and Board Member James Warlick were extremely impressed with the patience and tolerance of the group as they just kept squeezing closer and closer together to learn what they could about working with Howard manuscripts. And the scholarly crowd was just as impressed with the collection of Howard’s works housed in the library.
Several of the authors in the group donated a variety of new materials to the library. One such donation was about 35 books from the collection of Sprague de Camp. Although most of these are in other languages, they will be invaluable for research as scholars compare Sprague’s work with the more authenticated interpretations of Howard’s writings.
At the Howard House Museum, the gift shop was overflowing with publications of dozens of writers and illustrators featuring Howard’s poetry, boxing stories, Texas humor, artwork, and of course the better-known Conan stories. Project Pride volunteers were kept busy making sales and keeping the shelves stocked. The constant flow of visitors through the Museum kept another group of volunteers welcoming guests and giving guided tours. And yet other volunteers kept the ice water and refreshments flowing at the hospitality center in the pavilion.
Cornelius Kappabani from Germany was heard many times commenting, “This has been such a wonderful weekend in a wonderful little community; thank you so much.”
The Library and Project Pride agree that the Howard Days are definitely the most interesting projects that they sponsor. Each year more and more resources are donated to the library, and thus, more and more out-of-town visitors come to utilize these resources. The reputation of Project Pride and their efforts in maintaining Howard’s home and perpetuating his influence in the world of creative writing just keeps spreading in an ever-widening circle around the world.
Both of the local groups extend a heartfelt message of appreciation to all the volunteers who helped make the weekend so successful and to the community for making all our visitors feel so welcome.