At Walker Percy Weekend yesterday, we had an impromptu North American conservative summit on the back porch of Julie and Mitch Brashier’s grand Royal Street house Hillcroft. That’s Jason Kenney, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in Alberta. He came to the festival with Mark Cameron, former policy director for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Howard Anglin, executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation. A nicer bunch of Canadian drinkers of bourbon you could not hope to hang with.
Do you expect to run into distinguished international guests on the street in a small Southern river town on a steamy day in June? You do if it’s Walker Percy Weekend. This past year was our fourth annual festival, and it never ceases to amaze me how Percy admirers from all over the country, and even Canada, come down to spend a couple of days with us. I saw a lot of old friends, and met new ones, including a young lawyer from Queens and another young lawyer from Brooklyn, both of whom came by themselves, just because. A reader of this blog flew in from Orange County, California, just because.
It was steamy and it rained off and on, but we pulled through. From this blog’s commenter community, Franklin Evans and his pal Kevin Karg came once again from Philly. Leslie and Eric Fain were there. Jon F. flew in from Baltimore, and Bernie arose from her sickbed to come out for the crawfish boil on Saturday night. Old friends of the festival Ralph Wood, Jessica Hooten Wilson, and Patrick Connolly reprised their roles as speakers. We were grateful that Dr. Ralph Beaumont, whose family are big supporters of the Weekend, came down from Seattle to join us as a speaker. Many of us remembered the recently deceased Peter Augustine Lawler, who was a featured speaker at the first two Walker Percy Weekends.
Mary Pratt Lobdell Percy came back for the fourth year with her friends from Covington. I was talking to someone at the festival who said he really wanted to talk to her to ask her about growing up with Walker Percy as her father. “You should do it,” I said. He demurred, saying that he didn’t want to bother her. “Oh, you really should talk to her!” I said. “She’s a lot of fun.” She really is. The idea that you can actually share a drink and a laugh with Walker and Bunt’s daughter is, I think, one of the best things about the festival.
Harrison Scott Key brought down the house with his lecture on his memoir The World’s Largest Man. That man is funny, y’all. The last time I laughed as hard as I did hearing him talk was when I read the book. As Harrison pointed out to the audience, the book is about growing up in the South, but it’s mostly about fathers and sons. After his talk, he sold out every book that Conundrum bookstore owner Missy Couhig brought to the lecture. I’m telling you, if you don’t get your father a copy for Father’s Day, something is wrong with you.
I always get to the end of WPW filled with regret that I didn’t get to talk to more people, and didn’t get to speak for longer with those I did talk to. Can’t be helped, I guess. I realized only tonight that I had forgotten to take many photos! I think it had to do with my trying hard to stay focused on the event while managing the stupid disc problem in my neck, which manifested itself on Thursday, the day before the festival.
I ate my crawfish with Ken Wilgus, his son Alex, and a gentleman named J.R. I took this VFYT in the darkness and bumped it up using software, hence its fuzziness. That’s J.R. and Alex opposite me:
I heard from Mark Cameron tonight that he and his pals motored over from the not-so-fondly-named “Love In The Ruins Hotel” in St. Francisville to St. Joseph’s Abbey near Covington, where they went to mass with the Benedictines, and visited Walker and Bunt Percy’s graves to pay their respects. What a great way to end the weekend. May the memory of Walker Percy be eternal!
Here’s how most of us ended the weekend: it’s our festival Fearless Leader Missy Couhig behind Hillcroft, on the Bourbon Stroll, celebrating. I don’t know how we would do this without her and the hard-working Walker Percy Weekend committee, to whom all of us who enjoyed ourselves in St. Francisville this weekend owe a debt of gratitude.
By the way, if you want to buy Walker Percy Weekend swag (t-shirts, umbrellas, posters), you can order it here. Unfortunately, you can’t get these great t-shirts, which are one of a kind, created by their wearers: