POOH fever is at maximum today as the organisers of Oxfordshire’s World Poohsticks Championships celebrate AA Milne’s birthday.
Oxford Spires Rotary Club, which organised the championships in 2009, is especially excited after making Winnie the Pooh himself an honorary member.
Publicity officer Lesley Adams travelled to New York Public Library, where the original Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and Kanga once owned by Christopher Robin now live, to present him with his official certificate in September.
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Now, fired with more enthusiasm than ever, she and fellow organisers are hoping this year’s championships, set provisionally for Sunday, June 5, will be the biggest and best yet.
Mrs Adams said this year’s contest would be especially momentous because of a slew of anniversaries in 2016 – not only AA Milne’s 134th birthday, but also 90 years since the very first Winnie the Pooh story was published in 1926 and the 60th anniversary of the author’s death.
She told the Oxford Mail: “There are so many anniversaries, we are hoping the message gets out and we’ll have even more visitors.
“It would be really great to see people dressed up this year.”
Mrs Adams said she was delighted the New York Public Library had accepted the Pooh’s Rotary Club membership certificate on his behalf.
The toy bear, which AA Milne bought for his son Christopher Robin’s first birthday in August 1921, was purchased from Harrods in London.
New York Public Library acquired him and his companions in 1987 and they have been on display there since.
Mrs Adams added: “Winnie is almost our club mascot now, through the Poohsticks championships he has helped us raise so much money for charities as home and abroad – that’s why we made him an honorary member.”
Last year’s World Poohsticks Championships were held for the first time at a new bridge over the River Windrush at Langel Common in Witney.
The original Winnie the Pooh and friends in the collections of New York Public Library
Among more than 2,000 visitors was Deb Hoffman of Wisconsin, USA, who holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest collection of Winnie the Pooh memorabilia.
This year the club plans to reintroduce team events, which were put on hold last year amid the challenges of working at a new location.
Mrs Adams said she hoped the championships could see more than 3,000 visitors and competitors in 2016.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Christopher Robin’s death and the 40th anniversary of the death of the books’ illustrator E.H.Shepard.
The date for this year’s championships will be confirmed on the website pooh-sticks.com once the relevant permissions are obtained.
Karen Eveleigh, who lives in Witney, is the Rotary Club’s president.
The 45-year-old said: “We started celebrating AA Milne's birthday last year – it’s all good fun. It doesn’t matter how old you are, everyone has or had teddy bears and most people around the world enjoys Winnie the Pooh.”