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Literary Trail a success in Demopolis

In just its first year, the Southern Literary Trail was deemed a huge success by project director William Gantt.

Gantt, a Birmingham attorney, is the son of the late Wynell Gantt, a former English teacher and counselor at Demopolis High School. He has dedicated his work with the Southern Literary Trail to the memory of his mother, who shared her love of literature with decades of students.

The Trail is a series of events including play performances, readings, lectures and other events taking place along a “trail” of 18 Southern towns from Natchez, Miss., to Savannah, Ga.

Demopolis had its time in the spotlight last weekend, beginning with the performance of hometown playwright Lillian Hellman’s “the Autumn Garden” from Thursday through Saturday by the Canebrake Players.

Following Saturday’s matinee performance, Demopolis natives and writers Bert Hitchcock and William Cobb and University of West Alabama professor Dr. Alan Brown spoke on the literary lure of Alabama’s Gulf coast.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Spring Pilgrimage of Homes attracted several people to historic homes throughout town, many built during the pioneer days of Demopolis in the early and mid-19th Century.

On Sunday, the Trail concluded its Demopolis stay with a panel discussion, “Storytelling that Starts at Home,” directed by Dr. Brown and featuring Hitchcock, Cobb and another Demopolis native, the Rev. Rusty Goldsmith. That discussion took place at historic Lyon Hall on Main Avenue.

“I think the Trail has ‘legs,’ because we’re having huge audiences everywhere,” Gantt said. “Louisiana has approached us. They want to add onto the Trail, which would be a natural fit, for obvious reasons. I think we’ve got something to look forward to in the future.

“The Demopolis response has been tremendous. We had big attendance in Montgomery last weekend, and I would say a huge attendance in Demopolis. It’s gratifying to see. I saw people here this weekend that I saw in Montgomery last weekend. I’ve run into many people who came down here from Birmingham. The mission of the project — to create interaction of people going from one site or one event to the other across all three states — seems to be taking place.”

This month, Trail events began in Montgomery on March 6-7 and continued here in Demopolis last weekend. The Trial moves on to Tuskegee on March 18 with the Ralph Ellison lecture, then continues to Mobile on March 20-21, Hartselle on March 27 and 29 and Monroeville on March 28.