CROSS PLAINS — Fantasy literature experts and fans from across the country — and perhaps a few from across the oceans — have their reservations made for Cross Plains this weekend.
They will be arriving today as they begin their annual trek to Callahan County to celebrate the works of fantasy fiction author Robert E. Howard, whose blossoming career ended with his suicide in 1936.
“We don’t expect quite as many people here this year as we had last time, because that was the 100th anniversary of his birth,” Era Lee Hanke, president of Project Pride here, said Tuesday. “But we already have over 100 people registered for the events where we need a count, the ones with meals being served. We have reservations for 118 for Friday dinner, and we always have a lot of people show up during each day who didn’t register.”
Howard, who created the Conan character dramatized in cinema by the film “Conan the Barbarian,” lived in Cross Plains with his parents from 1919 to 1936. The family home has been restored by Project Pride and now serves as a museum and focal point for the Robert E. Howard Days held over the second weekend each June.
Howard came to Brownwood for his last year of high school, and then studied at Howard Payne. He is buried in Greenleaf Cemetery in Brownwood.
“The Robert E. Howard United Press Association people handle a lot of the program from California and Indiana,” Hanke said, “but there’s still a good deal of work that has to be done here.”
Gregory Manchess of Beaverton, Ore., will be the featured guest this year.
“Manchess paintings have appeared in magazines like Time, Newsweek, The Smithsonian and National Geographic,” Hanke said. “We’ve had some additional interest in the program this year outside the Robert E. Howard community because of everything he has done. He has illustrated film posters, billboards, children’s books as well as the covers of two Major League Baseball World Series programs.”
The schedule of events begins at 7 a.m. Thursday with a day trip to Fort McKavett, Enchanted Rock and Fredricksburg, places from which Howard drew inspiration in creating his fantasy land of Cimmeria. The tour will leave Jean’s Feed Barn after breakfast and stop in Brownwood at the end of the day for dinner.
Friday’s schedule will begin with the opening of the Howard Museum at 9 a.m. Exhibits will be available at the Cross Plains Public Library beginning at 10 a.m.
Seminars and exhibits will continue Saturday, and the Barbarian Festival with games, arts and crafts and other activities for the entire family is set for Saturday.