Riding up on a bicycle, I hear the sound of drum circles, the celebratory praise from the egg toss, and children laughing. I see a variety of colors in costumes and body paint. The smell of sweat, fried food, and hippie loom in the air. I must be in the right place. I must be in Austin, Texas.
The idea of ‘weird’ can be seen in all aspects of the city ranging from the music scene, food vendors, nightlife, and festivals. One local Austin event in particular, Eeyore’s Birthday, portrays a direct reflection of Austin’s most popular slogan of “Keep Austin Weird.”
Illustrated with costumes, body paint, nudity, beer, music, and an ‘everything and anything goes’ attitude, Eeyore’s Birthday portrays a mix of fun for the young and the young at heart. Austin’s counterculture scene is extremely prominent at this annual festival, which features hippies, stoners, candy kids, flower children, and drifters all in attendance.
With an extremely competitive egg toss and all proceeds going toward local nonprofits, Eeyore’s Birthday is much more than a flock of hippies. The festival has innocence and a positive aura.
Eeyore’s Birthday is an annual event. If you happen to be in the Austin area next week, check out this great festival on April 26, 2014.
Remarkably, the celebration has withstood now 50 years. The story of Eeyore’s Birthday is critical to be familiar with in order to relate to the motivation for the first Eeyore’s Birthday celebration in Austin in 1964. Chapter 6 of A.A. Milne’s classic story of Winnie the Pooh contains the tale of Eeyore’s Birthday Party.
“You don’t always want to be miserable on my birthday, do you?” a depressed and downtrodden Eeyore sarcastically questions to Pooh.
Pooh and Piglet end up presenting Eeyore with two gifts: an empty honey pot and a popped balloon. Eeyore is in such a content state “taking the balloon out [of the pot], and putting it back again, as happy as could be….”
The idea of enjoyment for the simple things in life might have motivated University of Texas student, Lloyd W. Birdwell Jr., who is the mastermind behind Eeyore’s Birthday festival, to derive a day for relaxation and escapism from reality based from a fictional donkey’s birthday.
Eeyore’s Birthday Party began as a small group of students from the University of Texas and now has elaborated into a huge hippie fest. However, since the first celebration on May 8, 1964 till now, things have changed, attendance has increased, and involvement of the Austin community is more apparent now than ever.
What to Expect
When: April 26, 2014 (rain date is May 3rd)
Where: Pease District Park at 1100 Kingsbury St, Austin, TX 78705
Time: 11 a.m. till dark
Children’s Area: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Live Music: Noon to 6 p.m.
Note: No smoking, bottles, cans, coolers, or tents.
A special characteristic to note is the fact that Eeyore’s Birthday’s admission is free and people of all ages and ideologies are welcome. The festival games like the egg toss, the May pole, and face painting contribute an innocence to Eeyore’s Birthday which might not be so strikingly apparent to the first time festival attendee.
The sight and sound of the drum circles are not only overwhelming but extremely captivating. Drums of all kind (even a homemade drum from a pan and a wrench will do!) contribute to the circle. Dancers with flags and streamers, whistles, and singers feel the beat of the drums and cannot help but join in. The circles can range in size from ten to fifty drums.
There is no available parking at the park. Please ride a bike, walk, or use the shuttle. Click HERE for shuttle information.
As amazing are the drum circles, Eeyore’s Birthday would not be an Austin festival without live music. Situated near the entrance is a stage which features local bands from noon to 6 p.m.
Of course Eeyore’s Birthday would not be complete without this mascot. Every year a donkey has been present at the event. Eeyore appears in feather boas around his neck and a certain degree of melancholy in his face.
Local Texas breweries serve their best concoctions for Eeyore and for you! Do not skimp out on trying a cup of Live Oak’s or Real Ale’s best brews. You will need something to keep you sane in the hot Texas heat.
Public Consumption of Marijuana
Some attendees relax on blankets in the grasslands of Pease Park and indulge in beer and marijuana consumption without apprehension, a judgmental eye, or a slap on the wrist from Eeyore’s security and officers on duty. This might be different now ever since Austin enforced a smoking restriction (that means cigarettes too) on all public parks.
What makes this event so popular is how those in attendance are the main attraction. With costumes strongly recommended, every person has a bit of individuality in their dress to congratulate Eeyore on yet another year. The attire can be confidently described as a “cross between Halloween, Woodstock, and a day at the beach.” Body paint, man thongs, fairy wings, homemade costumes, feathers, dyed hair, and tie dye dominate the view. You never know, you could win the costume contest!
Nudity is ever so apparent in the wild attire. Be it body paint or topless ladies, expect to see a little more than you would like.
With a connection to the classic story of Winnie the Pooh, an incredible vibe of acceptance of the strange, a classic spring time theme, a local history, and an interesting mix of old and new, Eeyore’s Birthday is equally iconic to the Austin community. Festival goers described Eeyore’s Birthday with words such as “peace, love, and beer” and “fun, free, and open.” Everyone has a smile and if there is a person that doesn’t then they must have just lost the egg toss.
Happy Birthday Eeyore, I promise we didn’t forget!
1. Milne, A. A. “Chapter 6: In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents.”Winnie-the-Pooh. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. http://www.neco1.com/pooh_book/chap6.html
2. Ozmun, Heather. “Unique Austin Events: Eeyore’s Birthday Party.” Suite 101. 23 Sept. 2010. Web. 26 Apr. 2012. <http://heather-ozmun.suite101.com/unique-austin-events-eeyores-birthday-party-a289262>.