This is my season for reflecting – mostly about how ideas and projects and movements evolve. The advantage of age is that we can remember when a seed was planted, we watched it grow, and now we rejoice in the harvest.
And so, while writing about the forthcoming Twin Cities Book Festival my thoughts drift back to The Minnesota Festival of the Book, the 1988 extravaganza when writers, publishers, booksellers, librarians and, most of all, readers gathered in Rice Park in downtown St. Paul!
Sponsored by The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library, the Festival brought together the myriad voices of what later came to be known as Minnesota’s vibrant “community of the book.” The grand goal of the Friends was “to throw a party for books and reading that will entertain and enlighten all ages.
And so the 1988 celebration of the written word was alive with all things bookish – from author signings to Braille editions to government publications, dozens of Minnesota publishers, libraries’ special collections, Friends groups, a host of bookstores, storytellers – not to mention the Sherlock Holmes display hosted by the Norwegian Explorers Club.
One feature of the Minnesota Festival of the Book was the inauguration of the Minnesota Book Awards. Originally sponsored by the Minnesota Center for the Book the awards continue today as an elaborate event sponsored by the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.
As I reflect on that beautiful September day “back in the day” I remember well the words of a colleague and metro regional economist, who viewed the Rice Park energy and observed – presciently – “now that’s how economic vitality begins.”
Though there is no direct organizational link between the 1988 Festival and this fall’s festival event at the Fairgrounds it is clear to me that the seed planted over a quarter century ago continues to bear fruit in countless ways. Over the years a host of institutions and communications channels have evolved to serve as common ground for the community of the book to thrive in a time of economic, social and technological change.
If you dig deep and keep peeling the onion, artists and freelance writers are the leaders in society – the people who start to get new ideas out ~~ Allan Savory