Eeyore’s Birthday celebrates those who make Austin unique

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Photo Credit: Gabby Lanza | Daily Texan Staff

What better way to celebrate a sad donkey’s special day than by wearing full costume and eating a chicken fajita?

Inspired by the mopey gray donkey from A. A. Milne’s “Winnie-the-Pooh,” Eeyore’s Birthday is an annual nonprofit celebration that brings recognition and donations to lesser known
organizations in the Austin area, such as Chautauqua-Texas River School and Austin Pets Alive. The event began as a festival in East Woods Park in 1964, when then-UT student Lloyd Birdwell Jr.
wanted to celebrate the end of the academic year. After the event moved to  Pease Park, it turned into a day-long community gathering to support the park coming together every year at the last Saturday in April.

Les Carnes, who has gone to the festival since 1979 and is now volunteer trustee of the festival’s foundation, Friends of the Forest, said the festival shares the same spirit as Eeyore’s birthday in “Winnie-the-Pooh.”

“Eeyore didn’t know when his birthday was, so his friends decided to throw him a special day,” Carnes said. “In the spirit of that, we throw a party for the people that need it and the people that make Austin a little more unique than other cities.”

Carnes said the atmosphere of Eeyore’s Birthday is unlike anything else in Austin, describing it as magical.

“The party is like nothing you’ve seen,” Carnes said. “This is a way of welcoming people to Austin and letting people know the spirit of Austin and the uniqueness of Austin is still there. It’s a way of getting to know your neighbor.”

Accounting sophomore Derek Lutz said he has never attended the celebration, but he is considering going this weekend.

“It looks like a nice break from the end-of-semester stress and the deadlines hanging overhead,” Lutz said. “Plus it’s free.”

Games, music, food, drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic), t-shirt, key chains and other various stands will be scattered around the park. Proceeds from the event will be put toward the participating
nonprofit organizations.

“Only nonprofits are out there,” Carnes said. “Anyone that shows up to try to make a buck will be run off.”

Texas River School is among one of the participating stands and beneficiaries of this year’s celebration, as they have been for the past twenty years. Joe Kendall, founder and executive director of Texas River School, said they first began volunteering at Eeyore’s Birthday 20 years ago after there was an incident with a stolen canoe.

“Someone suggested we raise money at Eeyore’s birthday to buy a new canoe,” Kendall said. “That year, we raised enough to buy almost three canoes and we’ve been participating every year since.”

Kendall says volunteering at Eeyore’s Birthday Party can be hard work, but it is ultimately a rewarding experience.

“It’s one of our bigger events of the year, and it’s a lot of work,” Kendall said. “It requires a lot of volunteers. We sell about 2,000 chicken fajitas in seven hours.”

Carnes said volunteers make up 100 percent of the event’s staff, meaning they are the heart and soul of Eeyore’s Birthday.

“There will be anywhere from 1,200 to 1,300 volunteers at a time,” Carnes said. “And with a park full of people, we can always use more hands.”

Ultimately, Carnes said he advises attendees to come prepared to the festivities this weekend.

“Wear sunscreen and a costume,” Carnes said. “And come spend some money to give back and support all these great nonprofits.”