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5 things you may not have known about Eeyore’s Birthday

Two people wear colorful costumes and flower crowns at the 2014 Eeyore's birthday celebration in Austin
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Festival-goers wear flower crowns at the 2014 celebration in Pease Park.

This story was originally published in 2014.

It doesn’t get much more Austin weird than Eeyore’s Birthday Party, the annual Pease Park bacchanal known for outrageous costumes and booming drum circles.

This Saturday is the 58th anniversary of the party. To mark the occasion, KUT put down the turkey leg to bring you five things you may not have known about the long-running festival.

It started as a UT thing

Scott Sexton, the president of the Friends of the Forest foundation, the Austin nonprofit that puts on Eeyore’s birthday, notes that the first celebration was dreamt up by UT English major Lloyd Birdwell Jr. and his fellow students.

Birdwell died in January 2014 at the age of 70. His obituary reads:

A student of English literature, Birdwell selected a theme based on A.A. Milne’s Eeyore character from Winnie-the-Pooh. The gloomy donkey was once especially saddened because he thought his friends had forgotten his birthday. The first Eeyore’s Birthday Party featured colorful costumes, a trash can of lemonade, beer, honey sandwiches, and a live flower-draped donkey. Birdwell wore his magician’s cape and top hat and wielded his wand.

"All the volunteers that knew him — we'll be taking a quiet moment and having a little tribute to him," Sexton says. 

It wasn't always at Pease Park

The original invitation for the first Eeyore's birthday shows a map of the festivities.
Scott Sexton
Friends of the Forest
An original invitation to the first Eeyore's Birthday in 1964 says the organizers "hope everyone will be able to come and make EEYORE happy."

Eeyore’s party was initially held in Eastwoods Park — a lot closer to the Forty Acres.

“In the 1970s it grew out of that location,” Sexton said. It was around that time that “it went from a Friday, ‘let's skip class’ event, to a Saturday, ‘we don’t have to skip class’ event," he said.

Sexton has passed along a copy of an original invitation to the party at Eastwoods park. 

"There will be suitable free beverage, such as beer, for those who think young," it reads. "Also Eeyore's birthday cake, music, special entertainment and a Maypole." 

The event gives to charity

On the Eeyore’s Birthday website, there’s a list of several Austin-area nonprofits. They've all received donations from the Friends of the Forest over the years.

Once the dust has settled and we find out if we made money or not, then we have a meeting of the board of directors,” Sexton said. After a board vote, “we end up donating money to as many local Austin nonprofits as we can.”

It's planned for the same day every year

"Eeyores Birthday Party is always planned for the last Saturday in April," the Friends of the Forest write on Facebook. "Rain date is the first Saturday in May."  

A smoking ban is in effect for all City of Austin parks

So … be careful with your combustibles.

Two festival-goers dance at the 2014 festival — one dressed in a yellow body suit, the other in a blue costume and cowboy hat.
Marissa Barnett
This year's festival goes from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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