By Lena Mitchell | NEMS Daily Journal
RIPLEY – William Faulkner’s close ties to Tippah County are central to the Faulkner Heritage Festival, to be held Nov. 4-5 in Ripley.
However, it is the life story and exploits of author William Faulkner’s great-grandfather, Colonel William Clark Falkner, that enlivens the spirit of the event.
The colonel greatly influenced William Faulkner’s writing, and the festival offers two days of events that highlight the connection.
“One of William Faulkner’s main characters is Colonel John Sartoris, who can be compared with Colonel W.C. Falkner throughout his literature,” said festival organizer Melinda Marsalis.
Three new features are highlights of the event.
A Friday writer’s workshop for adults and high school students will be led by Dr. Ben McClelland of the University of Mississippi.
“This is a chance for participants to work on improving their writing skills,” Marsalis said.
The Saturday luncheon speaker, Dr. Sally Wolff-King of Emory University, recently published a book about William Faulkner.
The book has been widely discussed and written about – and could even be termed controversial, Marsalis said – because it uncovers “startling sources of inspiration for Faulkner’s most famous works.”
Historical archaeologist Jack Elliott will give a talk that is the culmination of his months-long research project to provide new insight into locations of historically significant and Faulkner-related sites.
“His research has uncovered some mislocated sites in Falkner lore and has brought to light some previously unknown facts that will enhance the festival’s historic walking tour,” Marsalis said.
Some popular features from previous years return:
* A fiction writing contest awards ceremony and readings.
* A two-hour walking tour of the homes and buildings in historic downtown Ripley that figure into the Colonel Falkner saga.
* A Ripley Cemetery “Spirit Tour” with Ripley High School students in period costume.
* A formal dinner at Erin’s on the Square.
Entries to the fiction writing contest and art exhibition, and steady rises in attendance through the past four years, have marked the progress and growth of the festival.
Most events throughout the weekend are free to the public, but there are a few with a charge. The Saturday luncheon with Wolff-King is $15, but there is no charge for anyone who will not eat. Tickets for the formal dinner are $25.
This year Ripley High School students play a more prominent role in events as well.
Senior honor students are among about 25 students who will be dressed in period costume throughout the event, many of them representing some of Ripley’s historical figures for the Spirit Tour.
“As they arrive at the site for their character’s cemetery marker the students will give a brief talk about their characters,” Marsalis said.
The characters being portrayed include:
* Colonel William Clark Falkner
* Holland Pearce Falkner: Colonel W.C. Falkner’s first wife
* Henry Falkner: Son of Colonel W.C. Falkner and Holland Pearce Falkner
* Ned Barnett: A servant to Col. W.C. Falkner who was born into slavery and later became a Tippah County tenant farmer.
* Emeline Falkner: A slave with whom Col. W.C. Falkner had a child, Fannie Forrest Falkner.
* Thomas Spight: An attorney and friend of Col. W.C. Falkner who helped prosecute, but was unable to convict, the man charged with killing Falkner.
“The focal point of the cemetery tour is, of course, the 40-foot tall Italian marble statue of Colonel Falkner that stands majestically in the cemetery,” Marsalis said.
2011 Faulkner Heritage Festival
* When: Friday-Saturday, Nov. 4-5
* Where: Venues around Ripley
* Cost: Most events free; some events require tickets
* For more information: Ripley Main Street, (662) 512-1226 or online at http://www.mainstreet.ripley.ms