Truth be told, Flannery O'Connor would be mortified at the thought of a parade in her in honor, but her life and work simply merit it, especially in a parade town like Savannah, said Cody Shelley, foundation manager for the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home.
“If you’re a weird Southern woman, or anyone, really, living in Savannah, Flannery gets in your craw,” she said. “She was a woman that shocked people of her time and Savannah is that place where those shocking outsiders find a home.”
And while it’s true O’Connor would be a reluctant celebrity of today, the first of the now annual Flannery O'Connor Birthday Parade and Street Fair would have suited the eccentricity and Southern charm of its namesake. The fair started as an off-the-books, off-the-cuff celebration back in 2012, drawing a handful of doppelgangers draped in white pearls and matching gloves to Lafayette Square. Over the years, the fair has grown (and now has all of the necessary permits), with hundreds gathering to praise the celebrated author and the eccentricity she brought to the written word.
This year, folks are invited to bring a picnic and enjoy live music, games — including chicken poop bingo — and contests starting at 1 p.m. Local artist Panhandle Slim will showcase his folk art during a pop-up show and a giant gorilla will roam the grounds taking selfies with fest-goers. (I can only assume Enoch will be somewhere in the crowd, too).
The parade begins promptly at 3 p.m. with a blessing by Bishop Emeritus J. Kevin Boland, president of the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home board of directors, followed by an upbeat jaunt around the neighborhood.
O'Connor is considered one of America's greatest fiction writers and one of the strongest apologists for Roman Catholicism in the 20th century.
“There’s something so timely and timeless about her,” said Shelley. “She writes to themes that speak to our everyday world in a beautiful way. She dives into these morally flawed characters with such grace.”
More than 50 years after her death, O’Connor remains an important voice in American literature.
This celebration connects outsiders to both her experiences and the importance of the written word. As such, The Book Lady Bookstore will host Local Author Day in conjunction with the parade and street fair.
During the event, a bevy of local authors will present their writings and sell their books in the square. Likewise, the Flannery O'Connor Home will be open and free to the public, to get a sense of O’Connor's Depression-era childhood.
O’Connor was born in Savannah on March 25, 1925, and is the author of the acclaimed novels “Wise Blood” and “The Violent Bear It Away,” as well as 32 short stories and numerous essays. She lived in Savannah until 1938 and drew inspiration from her childhood experiences in Georgia’s First City until her death from lupus in Milledgeville on Aug. 3, 1964. She received the National Book Award for Fiction posthumously in 1972 for "The Collected Stories of Flannery O'Connor."