Ernest Hemingway's birthday bash in Oak Park expands to two days

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By Ken Trainor

Arts Editor

Did you know there's an official Hemingway rum? Papa's Pilar ("Solera aged and artisan crafted"). Pilar was actually the name of Papa's beloved fishing boat in Cuba, but no doubt rum was a frequent accoutrement. Regardless, Papaficionados can celebrate his birthday this Sunday evening, July 21, at the Hemingway Museum (6-10 p.m.) with an exclusive tasting of Pilar, accompanied by live music by Pennies from Heaven and appetizers and cocktails from Maya del Sol.

Or if your taste is runs a bit less fermented, you can enjoy lemonade and pastries on the porch of the Hemingway Birthplace Home, 339 N. Oak Park Ave., on Saturday, July 20, before or after perusing the Sidewalk Hemingway Book Sale at Oak Park and Lake.

Meanwhile, free tours of the Hemingway Birthplace and Museum (200 N. Oak Park Ave.) will be available from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday.

On Saturday evening, the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, founded by Oak Parker Don Evans, will announce its first annual Budding Literary Masters Awards at the Birthplace Home (including Aliana Barnette-Dear or OPRF High School).

On Sunday evening, in addition to the aforementioned rum, entertainment and appetizers, the Hemingway Foundation will announce its 2013-14 Writer in Residence, who will have the opportunity to work in the newly remodeled attic of the Birthplace Home, furnished by Thomasville, a North Carolina company with a special line of Hemingway-inspired furniture. Thomasville assigned their Oak Brook store designer, Barbara Smith, to turn what was once a maid's room into a "safari writing retreat," containing items from the foundation's collection of Hemingway paraphernalia.

"It's gone from being a storage space," said Allison Sansone, executive director of the Hemingway Foundation, "to a beautiful library, worthy of a world traveler."

They received more than 50 applicants for the writer-in-residence program from as far removed as Hawaii, Canada, and even Germany. You can read more about the program on the foundation's Facebook page.

To top off the birthday celebration, guest speaker Liesl Olson will discuss "Ernest Hemingway in Chicago," the little known period of Ernie's early literary career during which he lived in an apartment on the North Side of the city.

If all this sounds like a ratcheting up of the normally staid Hemingway birthday celebration, you would be correct.

"Well, one local columnist not too long ago said Hemingway deserved more on his birthday," explained Sansone, declining to name the rabble-rouser. "But really the days around July 21 have always been busy one for us, and this is a way to invite the entire village to come and celebrate with us, just as Ernest would have wanted. You get admission to Sunday night's party and talk and a weekend to tour the home and museum at your leisure."

Or, as the foundation puts it in their promotional material, "Celebrate the life of the man who made life a celebration."

The foundation will also be celebrating the life and vision of Hemingway's biggest fan, Redd Griffin, co-founder and longtime board member who died last year.

"Redd actually planned out the three-year program cycle," Sansone said, "of which this year's theme, 'Hemingway: A Life in Nature,' is the second year. Putting on these programs, including the birthday celebration, does, we hope, realize his vision."


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Paddy Boy  

Posted: July 19th, 2013 12:52 PM

I'm glad we can all have a drink in honor of Senior Hemingway. I've always admired the man. However, it always has bothered me that he is quoted as saying, "Oak Park is a city of large lawns and small minds." For the record he did deny saying that and couldn't understand why someone would quote him incorrectly. By the way Paul Revere never said, "The British are coming!" Why not? Because at that time everyone who lived in Boston was British. He actually said, "the Redcoats are coming."

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