Those who attended Saturday’s Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival experienced the best of both worlds: a perfect day to be outside and a great venue to pick up some new books for their kids to read.
An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 visitors descended on the grounds of Robert E. Bell Middle School for the second annual festival, featuring 85 children’s authors armed with thousands of books in various genres for toddlers though teenagers.
Parents and their children browsed through the school’s parking lot, many pleased that the young ones were excited about meeting and speaking with the authors and looking forward to adding to their home collection of reading material.
“Books are important, better than TV and video games, so any time you can make it more fun than it is, it’s always a good thing,” said Matt Brewer, a father of two children who came with his family from Brewster for the event.
After last year’s initial success, which was put together in about seven or eight months, organizers had a full year to prepare for last weekend’s edition. Dawn Greenberg, the festival’s executive director, said the 2014 version was not only bigger, with about 25 additional authors this year, there were kid-friendly activities courtesy of Camp Kiwi and Jodi’s Gym and other vendors to keep children engaged.
Another change was making sure that all of the authors could be at least partially shielded from the sun with a large main tent and several smaller ones, she said.
“We’re thrilled that it wasn’t raining but the fact that it’s 82 (degrees) I was concerned, especially about our older authors,” said Greenberg, who helped oversee more than 100 volunteers.
There was also a food court featuring eats from several local restaurants, and once again the Great Chappaqua Bake Sale was invited to participate to provide plenty of treats.
Allison Spiegel, one of the bake sale’s co-chairs, said on Sunday that more than $25,000 was raised through raffles, donations and sales of beverages and baked goods that were homemade or donated by local bakeries. The total easily surpassed last year’s effort by about $5,000. All proceeds will go to Share Our Strength and No Kid Hungry’s fight to end childhood hunger.
But the main focus was on books. Author and illustrator Eric Velasquez, who was on hand last year, said he loved watching the children’s expressions when they approached his table.
“Their eyes widen when they see the images and they start talking to their parents that they want this book,” said Velasquez, who works mainly on historical nonfiction for kids. “I think that’s the best reaction.”
Jen Nadol, one of several authors from Chappaqua, said she was impressed with the wide variety of books available and how children asked her questions about writing and what she does.
“It gets them to think a little bit, not just about reading but about the different things that people do and how you become an author,” Nadol said.
Probably the most popular attraction at the festival was author Victoria Kann. Throughout the day there was a long line of children and their parents waiting for their chance to meet and get an autograph from the “Pinkalicious” author.
Alina Emerson, who learned of the festival through her daughters’ elementary school, said they couldn’t wait to meet Kann. It was worth the trip, she said.
“It’s a wonderful idea,” Emerson said. “We came from Stamford and we traveled 40 minutes.”
Janine Marino, the festival’s creative/marketing director, said after last year’s inaugural effort, organizers discussed what worked well and what needed improvement and seemed happy with the results.
“We think we’re going to keep it at 85 (authors),” Marino said. “There might be some comings and goings in the future but it seems to be a nice, manageable size and it’s a good amount of authors in various genres.”