During the first weekend in August, the Eatonton Literary Festival and Book Fair annually celebrates the literary heritage of the Georgia Piedmont by highlighting the lives of Putnam County natives Joel Chandler Harris and Alice Walker, as well as, Baldwin county neighbor Flannery O'Connor, with lectures, tours, and folktales. Family life will be featured at the August 3-5, 2001 event with relatives making special presentations. Also the Festival will emphasize folk life through blues singing, poetry reading, and storytelling, as all of the authors drew from the region's rich culture.
In addition to historic Eatonton, with noted architecture of beautiful Piedmont plain-style houses, Greek Revival mansions, and Victorian buildings, attendees can tour Turnwold Plantation where Harris heard the stories he immortalized later through the tales of Uncle Remus, and the Walker family's ancestral Wards Chapel Church and Cemetery. As in the past over a dozen dealers in rare and used books as well as university and regional presses with new titles will be on hand to sell literature and historical works at the Book Fair.
The Festival opens Friday night, August 3, at 8 p.m. in the sanctuary of the exquisitely restored Eatonton Presbyterian Church with a reading by David Bottoms, the Poet Laureate of Georgia. Selections from the works of Walker, Harris, O'Connor, and others will complete the evening devoted to a recitation of great literature.
Beginning at 9 a.m. registration at the Book Fair kicks off the full day of the Festival, Saturday, August 4th, in the new Great Hall of the First United Methodist Church. The large, air-conditioned space will accommodate the numerous antiquarian book dealers and publishers selling their first editions, new and used titles. Coffee and lemonade will be available throughout the day.
Noted storyteller Carolyn Jabulile White will tell the Gullah stories and African American folktales she learned as a child from her parents and grandparents while growing up on James Island outside Charleston. A modern day griot, Carolyn White has performed throughout the country at such venues as the African American Arts Festival (MOJA) and the Charleston Museum. In 1998 she received the South Carolina Folk Heritage Award from the South Carolina Arts Commission. Schedules in three sets, the storytelling will occur in the Eatonton-Putnam County Public Library at 9:30, 11:30, and 1:30 p.m.
The Eatonton -Putnam County Historical Society will once again be offering lunch. Lunch is $10.00 and served in the restored Reid-Bronson House. Lunch reservations must be received by Friday, July 27, 2001. The Greek Revival mansion was once owned by Andrew Reid, Harris's patron.
This year the Festival has arranged presentations by family members of the noted authors. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 4, Linda Harris, the great-great-granddaughter of Joel Chandler Harris, will speak in the First Baptist Church. At 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon in the Putnam County Courthouse, Jimmy and Bobby Walker, brothers of Alice Walker, will recall growing up in Eatonton and the surrounding countryside.
After a supper break, the Festival will reconvene at 7:30 p.m. in the Plaza for a rural acoustic blues performance by Precious Bryant of Waverly Hall, Georgia. Trained in the folk tradition, Bryant will sing standards that harken back to the days of Joshua "Peg Leg" Howell, the noted blues performer from Eatonton. To help set the context of the evening , musicologist George Mitchell will introduce Bryant who will be accompanied by Cathy and Jake Fussell.
The Festival concludes in Milledgeville on Sunday, August 5, following the 11:15 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Louise Flourencourt, Flannery O'Connor's first cousin, will initiate a presentation on the author and her extended family and then introduce two of O'Connor's friends at a session beginning at 1:30 in the Old Governor's Mansion. Around 3 p.m. the audience will depart for a ramble of Milledgeville sites related to O'Connor. The O'Connor Collection at Georgia College & State University, the newly restored Old Capitol with its local history museum, and Historic Memory Hill Cemetery will be open.
All of the Festival events are free and open to the public with the exception of lunch. Throughout the day of the Eatonton Literary Festival, the Uncle Remus Museum will be open for tours. Other co-sponsors include Better Hometown-Eatonton, the Georgia Humanities Council, the Georgia Power Company, Friends of Baldwin County Cemeteries, and Georgia State University.