The Statue of Eeyore, Commemorating Eeyore's First Birthday Party
This statue recognizes the founding of Eeyore's Birthday Party, the annual free festival held on the last Saturday in April. Though a similarly-themed picnic was held the year before, the first official party was held in 1964 and planned by english graduate students Lloyd Birdwell and Jean Craver, as well as English professor James Ayres. The party started off as a fraternity- and sorority-sponsored event, but later fell into the hands of The Friends of the Forest, a group from the University YMCA once the size of the party became too large for Prof. James Ayres to handle. The celebration features live music, Maypoles, drum circles, refreshments, red balloons (which are Eeyore's favorite), and Eeyore himself. The festival is advertised for all ages and includes family-friendly events such as egg tosses and relay races. All proceeds from the festival go to nonprofits to benefit the Austin community. This festival is a carry-over of the free spirits from the 1960s and is seen as a an integral part of the "Keep Austin Weird" culture.
Backstory and Context
Although the modern festival has a reputation as a liberal event, this was not always the case. For the first ten years of this festival, Eeyore’s birthday was invitation-only, run by the fraternities and sororities, and attended by members of the elite, including Lady Bird Johnson. It was not until 1973, for their tenth annual festival, that the invitation for Eeyore’s birthday was extended to the entire state of Texas. In an effort to contrast Eeyore’s Birthday, the UT Austin chapter of SDS created a counterculture celebration known as “Gentle Thursday”. “Gentle Thursday” preached a message of inclusion, inviting everyone, and had no scheduled events whatsoever in an attempt to appeal to the authenticity of free-form fun. This event was not condoned by the University because, as stated by a representative, “the events were too ambiguous and that the university could not condone kissing, balloons, mellow yellow[banana peels that were smoked for a mild hallucinogenic effect], and en masse love”. However, the early elitist, exclusive reputation of Eeyore’s Birthday had been uprooted by the late 1970s after the invitation was extended statewide. In 1979, after the celebration was cancelled due to rising costs, one frequent attendee advocated for an impromptu celebration, stating “Organization is the very antithesis of Eeyore’s. It can just happen”.
Even though it has outgrown Eastwoods and moved to Pease Park, Eeyore’s birthday continues to be an integral part of the “Keep Austin Weird” culture. Despite heavy criticism from the neighboring communities, every year invitations to Eeyore’s birthday party are sent statewide, promising live music, refreshments, Maypoles, and of course, red balloons.