The Way Back: Making Austin Weird

In 1963, UT student Lloyd Birdwell, BA ’64, MA ’66, founded Eeyore’s Birthday Party to honor the grumpy donkey from A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories. An instant hit, the annual event quickly outgrew its original home of Eastwoods Park, eventually moving to Pease Park on the edge of West Campus in 1974. 

UT photojournalism student Lisa Davis caught the event in all its glory in 1983. Originally featuring maypole dancing and beer chugging, Eeyore’s Birthday now represented the full gamut of Austin’s weird and wacky: body paint, drum circles, fancy dress, and, indeed, that famously malcontented donkey. Davis, BJ ’84, became a renowned local photographer, documenting the city’s political and cultural life with kinetic vigor. She died by suicide in 1995, but her photographic archive is preserved at the Austin History Center. 

Eeyore’s Birthday was canceled in 2020 along with just about everything else. Hopefully it will return in 2021, and perhaps the city can more generally recapture the casual joyeux de vivre seen in just about every image Davis ever took.

Photograph courtesy of the Austin History Center, Austin Public Library/Lisa Davis Photograph Archive


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