IF YOU'RE LOOKING for an alternative to traditional Fourth of July festivities, drive a couple hours south to Pasaquan, the offbeat artist enclave near Buena Vista, to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late visionary artist Eddie Owens Martin, aka St. EOM.
After leaving his birthplace in south Georgia in the 1940s, Martin hitchhiked to Manhattan, taking odd jobs as a bartender, hustler, drag queen and fortune-teller, earning the Beat-inspired title "The Wizard of Greenwich Village."
After his mother died in the '50s, he returned home to the four acres he inherited and transformed them into an otherworldly artist haven. Inspired by his visions of the future, Martin filled the compound with large colorful totems, walls and structures rendered in cement and intricately painted with geometric shapes and mysterious emblems that represented, among other things, the convergence of past, present and future.
Martin committed suicide in 1986, but his dream of an artistic future where everybody gets along lives on.
Dine under the pecan trees: Bring chairs and coolers with picnics or purchase pizza, cold watermelon and soft drinks for sale. Live music and tours of the site will be provided.
Eat cake: Visitors are encouraged to enter the birthday cake contest. Pasaquan-related prizes will be awarded to winners in three categories: Most Visionary Cake; Most Fortune-ate Cake; and Most Past, Present and Future Cake.
Dress the part: While his neighbors donned Levis and T-shirts back in St. EOM's days, the good artist was often seen in flowing, colorful robes and feathered headdresses. A costume parade and competition at 1:30 p.m. will reward those who capture the founder's style best.
Calling all snakes: Join in a snake-calling competition at 2 p.m. Local lore has it that Martin was a magician who trained rattlesnakes to be his bodyguards. "We thought it would be fun to let people use their imaginations to see what sounds they come up with to call snakes," says Pasaquan Preservation Society board member Fred Fussell. "If anyone manages to get a snake to come up, they'll win by default."
> THE 411: St. EOM's 100th Birthday. $5; free for children 5 and younger. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 4. Pasaquan, Ga. 137, Buena Vista. Follow signs from the town square or see Web site for detailed directions. 229-649-9444, www.pasaquan.com.
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