CROSS PLAINS — Conan, the fantasy fiction creation of Cross Plains resident Robert E. Howard, and dozens of others who made literary history during the first third of the 20th century will be returning to life this weekend.
Several hundred fans of the genre, and others fascinated by the mysterious man whose fertile imagination took him far beyond the plains of Central West Texas, are converging on Cross Plains today and Saturday to participate in programs and panel discussions and view displays related to Howard and his work.
But most of all, they are coming to Cross Plains to trace the author’s steps.
He lived with his parents in Cross Plains from 1919 to 1936 when — depressed over the imminent death of his ailing mother, a separation from his girlfriend and troubles with his publisher — Howard took his own life.
Focal point of the annual celebration is the Robert E. Howard Museum, the restored family home on Highway 36 operated by Cross Plains Project Pride. That local organization along with the Robert E. Howard United Press Association are co-sponsors of the celebration.
On Saturday, the Barbarian Festival will offer families a variety of other activities, including games, car shows, exhibits and similar events.
Featured guest this year will be Gregory Manchess of Beaverton, Ore., whose paintings have appeared in magazines like Time, Newsweek, The Smithsonian and National Geographic, according to Era Lee Hanke of Cross Plains, president of Project Pride.
He has illustrated two World Series programs, and his work has garnered a gold medal, three silver medals and a Best Illustration of the Year award from the Society of Illustrators in New York.
In Cross Plains, Hanke said, Manchess will discuss his work in illustrating “The Conquering Sword of Conan.” He is scheduled for a program at 2 p.m. today.
Howard’s works went far beyond the adventures chronicled in the Conan works, although they have proven to be his most enduring. His other writings included historical adventure, suspense, detective stories, gothic horror, sea stories and Western burlesque.
Howard, born in 1906 in Palo Pinto County, was the only son of Dr. and Mrs. Isaac M. Howard. The family lived in several different Texas communities — including Cross Cut in Brown County — but by 1919, they had settled in Cross Plains. Most of Howard’s writing was done in their home on West Highway 36, a building which is listed on the national Register of Historic Homes.
Here is a scheduled of events for today and Saturday:
Friday, June 8
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Howard House Museum open for tours. Closed for lunch.
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Postal cancellation at downtown Post Office
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Public Library downtown open. Original manuscripts available for viewing, copies for sale
10:30 a.m. to Noon — Walking and bus tours, free time
Noon — Lunch in the pavilion provided by Project Pride
2 p.m. — Panel: “Black Rivers and Red Nails: The Art of Greg Manchess,” hosted by Craig Miller
3 p.m. — Panel: “Shadow Kingdoms: Exploring Kull’s Thurian Age,” hosted by Larry “Deuce” Richardson
4 to 6:30 p.m. — Dealer’s Room open for browsing adjacent to dinner site. Silent auction available for browsing and bidding at dinner
6:30 p.m. — Celebration dinner, fresh cooked, piping hot, mouth watering catfish and all the trimmings. Silent auction ends right after dinner
9 p.m. — The Cimmerian Awards, hosted by Leo Grin at Pavilion
Saturday, June 9
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Howard House Museum open for tours (closed for lunch)
All day — Annual Barbarian Festival downtown with parade, car show, tractor show, live music, crafts, lots of food vendors
12:30 p.m. — Kane film presented by Derek Stallings
1 p.m. — Panel: “Desert Adventurers: El Borak, Kirby O’Donnell and other Gunslingers of the Wild East,” hosted by Dave Hardy
2 p.m. panel — “Ringside Tales: The Amazing Stories Behind Howard’s Favorite Boxers,” hosted by Chris Gruber
3 to 5 p.m. — Free Time
5 to 8 p.m. — “Sunset BBQ at Caddo Peak,” hosted by the Middleton family, owners.