BRIEF: Church fan man to present at St. James

William McNeill's old-time hand held church fans bring back a flood of memories to his audiences across the state. The Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear presents McNeill at 7 pm Feb. 15 in the Great Hall at St. James Episcopal Church, at the corner of South Third and Market streets. (The entrance to the hall is on the Market Street side.)

Bill McNeill giving a lecture.

Bill McNeill giving a lecture.

McNeill's multimedia program is titled “Fannin' the Heat Away: A Celebration of the Art and Advertising of the Handheld Church Fan.” An entertainer as well as historian, he plays the piano, sings hymns, gospel, and popular tunes to illustrate his subject. He talks about the spiritual meanings of the sacred images on one side of the fans, and the commercial uses served by advertisements on the other side.

He remembers similar fans himself from attending his family's small Bladen County church when he was growing up. Those images fascinated him. McNeill brings to life Southern manners and customs particular to the mid-1900's. It's a vanished scene he resurrects, similar to illustrator Norman Rockwell's well known depictions of that era.

McNeill was chosen to give this program in 2011 for the annual “Best of Our State Weekend” at the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst. He will bring his collection of vintage fans with him so the audience can enjoy the real thing. The Historical Society appreciates his presenting this program to benefit its museum, archives, and services to the community. Tickets: $7.

Details: 910-762-0492 or visit to reserve your place.

3 Responses to “BRIEF: Church fan man to present at St. James”

  1. Ron Y.

    I was at the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst when McNeill performed this program, and I was fascinated. His presentation is informative and entertaining and amusing. And the audience loved his tongue-in-cheek delivery. I’ll be at St. James on the 15th.

  2. Suzanne

    The Cameron Art Museum exhibited McNeill’s church/advertising fans, and I think the exhibit was one of the best the museum has ever had. I went back two or three times with my children and grandchildren, and they seemed to enjoy looking at the fans as much as I. A film of his program played in the exhibit, but I hope to see him do it live at St. James.

  3. Amanda Greene

    I hope you both enjoy the program tonight. Those fans are pretty neat!


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