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Fifth annual New Orleans Book Festival was a success

City Park hosts the 5th annual New Orleans Book Festival on Saturday, November 15. (photo: facebook.com/nolabookfest)

City Park hosts the 5th annual New Orleans Book Festival on Saturday, November 15. (photo: facebook.com/nolabookfest)

By Seth Mattei

Dubbed “A day of fun and activities celebrating books,” the fifth annual  New Orleans Book Festival took place along the perimeter of Big Lake in  City Park on Saturday Nov. 15, and the weather couldn’t have been more  perfect. Clear skies and temperatures consistently around 60 degrees  welcomed a medium-sized crowd of all ages as they traversed the festival  grounds, listening to readings by various authors, shopping for books or  spending time playing games with their children.

The range of speakers was impressive, ranging from fiction writer Wally  Lamb (author of the popular novel “She’s Come Undone”), novelist-  turned-historian Gary Krist, who spoke about his recently-published  “Empire of Sin,” an account of New Orleans’ violent reform movement  during the turn of the twentieth century, and Peter Yarrow, one-third of  the beloved folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Brandishing an acoustic guitar,  Yarrow played songs from the group’s repertoire including “Down by the  Riverside” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” He ended his set by inviting  children onstage to sing “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

The main stages at the event were located in the park, with the exception  of the auditorium at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA). The  festival was free and open to the public, and the museum offered half-price  admission for the day (five dollars instead of 10). People dressed as child  literature favorites, including the Cat in the Hat, the Very Hungry

Caterpillar and Curious George walked through the park throughout the day, getting their pictures taken with both children and adults. The Cat in the Hat provided some nice juxtaposition throughout the day, posing near the adult tent while Wally Lamb spoke, and walking past an amused lighting crew to enter the museum.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu made himself visible throughout the day, spending much of his time with youngsters in the crowd, encouraging them to read, dancing and singing songs with them. The city’s First Lady, Cheryl Landrieu presented the festival with the help of Barnes and Noble, who had a tent on each side of the festival’s coordinates (it was divided into two sections; one for children, one for adults). Following their speeches, authors headed to one of the tents to sign books. Scholastic Books also had a stand, as did LEAP (Louisiana Educational Assessment Program). It’s nice that these companies and organizations participated in an event aimed at promoting literacy, but why weren’t any of the city’s great independent booksellers represented? Hopefully this changes in the coming years.

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