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Keep Austin Wierd - Austin's Battlecry

Jun 5, 2008
The term "Keep Austin Weird" has become overly used, and some would say Austin "weirdness" is growing increasingly hard to find, with the mass influx of those from other areas bringing their normality to town. Luckily with events like Spamarama, the shrine known as the Cathedral of Junk, and the annual Eeyore's Birthday Party, the city's weirdness shines.

In 1978, David Arnsberger, Dick Terry, and George Majewski shared some beer and an idea- they were bored of chili and BBQ cook-offs, and thought it would be more impressive if people could make something like Spam taste delicious, and Spamarama was born. Today, the Spam cook-off is divided into a professional division for restaurants and caterers, and the open division for the general public. Not only do celebrity judges give trophies to the best tasting entries, like Spam flautas and Spam Cordon Bleu, but a "Worst of Show" trophy is also handed out to items like Spam-Alama Ding Dongs.

Though every year there is a Spam Eating contest, in 2004, the International Federation of Competitive Eating sponsored the event, and brought competitive eaters from around the country to enter the challenge. Rich LeFevre won that year, finishing off six 12 ounce spamburgers in 12 minutes. Other events are fun for the whole family, such as the Spam toss, the Spam can relay, and the Spam call- akin to the hog call.

Down in deep south Austin, at 4422 Lareina Drive, lives a humble man by the name of Vince Hannemann. Hannemann lives in a modest home, and you'd never know his backyard houses the Cathedral of Junk. He began to build the cathedral in 1988, because it was fun, and it's become his passion ever since. It's made of improvised trusses that Hannemann has wrapped with wire and covered with over 60 tons of junk, ranging from discarded bicycles and lawnmowers to beer signs and unrecognizable flashing electronic parts. Wind turbines top two minarets, and once inside the cathedral, one can climb to different levels, or sit in the throne room and take in the vaulted ceilings. Many people bring along their own discarded items in hopes that it will become part of the cathedral, but Hannemann is a discerning builder, and only takes items he likes. The Cathedral of Junk has hosted events from weddings to bachelor parties, and CD release parties to school kids on field trips. Hannemann works during the week, but allows anyone interested to stop by on the weekends to walk around his backyard.

In 1963, UT English professor Lloyd Birdwell Jr. held a picnic on the UT campus for his students before final exams. The picnic's theme revolved around the Winnie the Pooh character Eeyore. There was a trashcan full of lemonade, a slew of honey sandwiches, a donkey draped in flowers, and a maypole at the picnic. Eeyore's Birthday Party was born. Since then, it's been an annual tradition, and moved to its current location in Pease Park in 1974.

Today, the maypole and the donkey are still present at Eeyore's Birthday Party, and the event is run by the Austin non-profit organization, Friends of the Forest, who set up local vendors for food and drink, and distribute the money brought in amongst local charities. Many costume clad Austinites show up on the last Saturday in April. There are games for kids to play, live music, and the ever present drums circles, sometimes numbering in the hundreds. Eeyore's Birthday has become so popular that Friends of the Forest began bussing in attendees from downtown, due to the lack of parking near the event.

Spamarama, the Cathedral of Junk, and Eeyore's Birthday Party all have one thing in common- they all began by people out to have fun. They are all unique, and have grown to become Austin institutions, and are truly keeping Austin weird.
About the Author
Escapeso Realty helps people navigate the Austin Texas real estate market. Their website provides visitors a graphical search for Austin Homes along with a blog covering Austin real estate.
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