CROSS PLAINS — The annual celebration of the literary works of Cross Plain author Robert E. Howard will be held today and Saturday, and several hundred visitors — including many from other states and countries — are registered.

Howard researchers and scholars will be on hand for panel discussions, but those are only part of the celebration that spills out into the streets throughout the city.

Howard is best known for his fantasy adventure writings, through which the character Conan came to life, but his work branched into numerous other others before he told his own life in 1936.

Howard lived most of his life in Cross Plains, and attended Howard Payne College in Brownwood. He is buried in Greenleaf Cemetery, where the volunteer support group Friends of Greenleaf will open a reception center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday for visitors to Howard’s grave. Soft drinks, water and other refreshments will be served.

Mark Finn, a native of Abilene who now lives in Vernon, will be the featured speaker at the celebration dinner beginning at 6:30 p.m. today at the community center. His topic will be “Robert E. Howard and the Whole Wide World of Texas.” Reservations for the dinner closed Thursday.

Finn will also participate in panel discussions today and Saturday. Finn’s biography of Howard, “Blood & Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard” was released in November 2006 at the World Fantasy Convention and it was a finalist for the 2007 Locus Awards for Best Non-Fiction.

Finn won the 2005 Cimmerian Awards for Outstanding Achievement, Best Essay for “Fists of Robert E. Howard” from The Barbaric Triumph, and the Emerging Scholar plus the 2007 Awards for Outstanding Achievement, Book By A Single Author and Outstanding Achievement, Web site, along with Leo Grin, Rob Roehm and Steve Tompkins for The Cimmerian Blog. He and his wife, Cathy Day, manage the Vernon Plaza Theatre.

The Howard home, which is now maintained as a museum by Project Pride of Cross Plains, will be open for tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday, with a closing during the lunch hour. The weekend’s events are presented by Project Pride and The Robert E. Howard Foundation, Arlene Stephenson, president of Project Pride, said.

Two panel discussions will be open today with a third on Saturday.

At 10:30 a.m. today at the pavilion, Damon Sasser, Rob Roehm and Bill Cavalier will talk about “Keeping the Legacy Alive: REH Fanzines/Small Press Publications.”

At 2 p.m. today at the pavilion and Ice House, Finn and Chris Gruber will deal with the topic, “REH’s Fight Club, Ice House Perspective.”

At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Rusty Burke, Finn and Cavalier will address the topic, “Deconstructing Blood & Thunder.”

The Cross Plains Public Library will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for reading and displays.

Other events include a postal cancellation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the post office, walking and bus tours leaving from the pavilion on Highway 36 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today and Saturday, a Howard swap meet from 12:30 to 4 p.m. today and Saturday at the pavilion, and a silent auction at the community center just prior to the dinner today.

The celebration will conclude with a sunset barbecue at Caddo Peak from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday.

On Saturday, the 10th annual Barbarian Festival will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Events open with the downtown parade, and the day will be filled with car and tractor show, arts, crafts, live entertainment, food, games and other events. The senior citizens center parking lot will be the focal point for children. Live entertainment will be provided by the Class of 57 and canine rescue demonstrations. The awards ceremony will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Turkey Creek Bicycle Tour sponsored by the Cross Plains Volunteer Fire Department will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday. For information, call (325) 665-4078.

A 42 tournament is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the senior citizens center, with proceeds benefiting the center.

Raffle items will be on display at Texas Heritage Bank, with drawings held throughout the day Saturday. Proceeds will benefit the Terry Jane McWilliams Wyatt Memorial Scholarship Fund.