Hed: New Albany, Oxford look ahead to Faulkner's 100th birthday

By Jane Hill

Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY - The dedication of a museum honoring the memory of William Faulkner and the presentation of a statue of the famous author are the two major events planned in 1997 to mark the 100th anniversary of Faulkner's birth.

The Union County Historical Society and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council in Oxford are each preparing their own sort of unveiling on Sept. 25, Faulkner's birthday.

New Albany, the birthplace of the Nobel Prize-winning author, is in the midst of planning a three-day educational and entertainment festival in honor of its most famous native son.

Oxford, Faulkner's home for most of his literary career and life, is planning a special ceremony to introduce a statue of Faulkner to the public in front of City Hall on the Oxford Square, said Robyn Tannehill with the Oxford Tourism Council.

Both organizations are in the process of raising funds for their events and lining up speakers and entertainers.

The Faulkner statue is being commissioned through the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, and supporters have already begun soliciting donations from local businesses and industry to defray the estimated $50,000 cost, according to retired physician Dr. Chester McLarty, who originally conceived the idea of erecting a statue to Faulkner.

Besty Hamilton of the Union County Historical Society said the Faulkner Centennial Celebration will coincide with the Tallahatchie River Run and Festival.

The festival will open with a community birthday celebration on Thursday evening, Sept. 25, followed by a Faulkner Education Day in the New Albany and Union County schools on Friday, Sept. 26, and a variety of speakers, historic area tours, music and dramatic performances on Saturday, Sept. 27.

The weekend celebration will highlight the opening of a permanent facility for the William Faulkner Birthplace Museum, which will preserve and illustrate all aspects of the history of Union County and the surrounding area.

Throughout the weekend celebration, participants will be encouraged to visit the "Faulkner Family Trail," places of historic interest in the region connected to the Faulkner family.

Sponsors of the celebration include the city of New Albany, the Union County Board of Supervisors, the Union County Development Association, the Union County Historical Society and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.

Early estimates put the cost of the festival at about $50,000. In addition to its public sponsors, organizers will be seeking corporate and private donors to make the festival a success, Hamilton said.

Some entertainment scheduled for the celebration include singer/songwriter Mac McAnally; actor John Maxwell, known for his performances in the one-man play "Oh, Mr. Faulkner, Do You Write;" and, a performance of a country opera of Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" created by Memphis Opera director Michael Chang and performed by Nashville singers and songwriters.

An official announcement of the schedule of events, speakers and performances will be made in early July, Hamilton said.

Those interested in volunteering for the centennial celebration can call Hamilton at 538-0014. Those interested in becoming corporate or personal sponsors may call the Union County Development Association at 534-1047.

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