Highgate Library

I am now the proud owner of a UK Library Card!  I have been thinking a lot about books lately because this weekend is the ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival at Fairytale Town.

I was one of the founders of the event 11 years ago. Since then, it has grown to be the largest early childhood literacy event in our region. Last year more than 13,000 people attended. It is a dynamic event with ongoing author and illustrator presentations, hands-on literacy activities offered by dozens of local arts and literacy organizations, storytelling performances, book vendors and a book swap – in other words, tons of bookish play!  It is hard to be away from my ‘baby’, but gratifying to know that it lives on – probably bigger and better than ever. (To see a list of the authors and illustrator presentations and activities please visit our website at fairytaletown.org.)

A program of this scale takes a lot of hard work, and since I promised to fill you in on the work of play, I will give you an idea of what went on behind the scenes to build this year’s Festival. Please know that I have not detailed the work of this event in its entirety – it would be a novel!  And keep in mind that the work I do detail occurs as we go about our daily jobs involving  admissions, general administration and maintenance, fund development, and programs such as field trips, concerts, movie  nights, and day camps (or schemes as they call them here in the UK), to name a few.

And so we begin…

About this time last year we started our fund development efforts for the Festival, writing grants and sponsorship proposals. We are thankful to our stalwart contributors for making the event possible – and free of charge. We are indebted to ScholareShare College Savings Plan for continuing their title sponsorship of the Festival, and to Wells Fargo, Mix 96 Radio, KVIE Channel 6, The Sacramento Bee, IKEA, Time Tested Books, Rivercats Foundation, Sierra Health Foundation and Shirley Plant for their continued support as well. Last fall we also secured the Festival dates with the City of Sacramento so no other large events would be scheduled in Land Park on the weekend of September 24 and 25, 2011.

In January we started researching local authors and illustrators and recently published children’s books. It was then that we discovered Kristi Yamaguchi’s delightful book, Think Big Little Pig.  In March, we contacted authors and illustrators to invite their participation in the event; and began to collect their book and biographical information for our bookseller and media requests. Shortly after, we developed the author/illustrator schedule, making sure we accommodated their timing requests and also ensuring we had a good variety of presenters on each day – both authors and illustrators, men and women, fiction and nonfiction.

W is for Writing, Whimsy... and Wasp!

The author/illustrator roster, along with the sponsor list, was somewhat finalized in May so we could begin our promotional efforts.  We sent our first of three media releases, and in June we began creating promotional materials. Items ranging from billboards, print ads and announcement postcards, to television and radio spots were finalized in July so they could be ready for August and September deadlines.  We had our materials approved by school districts in the region so we could distribute information about this free event through public schools, as well as through community centers, libraries and the mail.

In early summer we turned our sights to inviting the involvement of community organizations, and collected information on what activities they would offer, whether they needed electricity, the numbers of tables and chairs they required, etcetera.  About this time we also secured the involvement of Access Sacramento, who will be taping and streaming the event, and put things in place to make sure they would have the infrastructure they needed to do so.

Earlier this month we sent information with arrival and load-in details, parking instructions and event facts to all participants.  The advertising and public relations campaign we devised was implemented. Staff schedules were developed to ensure we had enough hands on deck to serve the large crowd we hope to receive. Volunteers were recruited and scheduled. Decorations were created and installed, the lawns were mowed, the gardens were spruced up and programs were printed so the facility will be as magical and informative as possible for our guests.

Reading Light Fixture

Friday, September 23rd will be busy with event set-up. Books, tables, chairs, set decorations, food stuffs, retail items and print materials will be delivered. The café will be scrubbed down. The restrooms will be cleaned and stocked.  The sound system will be checked. The stage will be set for a couple of days of bookish play. 

On Saturday and Sunday, Fairytale Town staff will open the gates and thousands and thousands of people will come to look, listen and engage their imaginations.  They will leave inspired and knowing more than when they arrived — whether it’s about a book, an author, themselves or a literacy resource available to them.

And once they are gone, the Fairytale Town staff, board and volunteers will get back to work, picking up trash, cleaning the bathrooms, storing supplies, raising money  — making sure the facility is as magical as possible for the next day of play. 

This is a very small taste of the work of play. It happens every day, in every way, everywhere around the world.  Whether it’s an organization planning for a large scale event or a parent planning a play date, the work of play makes a positive difference in the lives of children. So let’s keep it up!

Best wishes for a spectacular ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival at Fairytale Town this weekend! I know you’ve worked hard for it.

A Fox in Highgate Cemetery - Reading all the Headstones