LIVINGSTON -- A little bit of rain wasn’t going to damper this book party.
Despite weather conditions forcing organizers to move the event inside, the Sixth Annual Livingston Parish Book Festival ran without a hiccup, drawing hundreds to the Main Branch of the Livingston Parish Library for a full day of activities celebrating all things literacy on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Normally held on the library’s wide open grounds outside, LPL Head of Youth Services Marcie Nelson made the decision to move the book festival inside once early forecasts projected a tropical storm system passing through the area the day before.
Nelson made the call three days before the festival to move it inside, meaning she and co-organizer Charlotte Curtis, head of adult services, had to think up a way to fit everything they had planned for the previous three months inside.
“They kept telling me we can’t fit it all, and I was like, ‘Watch me,’” Nelson said with a laugh.
Despite moving the event inside, the rain never came once the book festival started.
However, the people sure did.
During the day-long event, visitors had the chance to peruse thousands of titles ranging from children’s books to young adult novels to classics and everything in between. They were also treated to a full slate of author discussions, book signings, and live musical entertainment.
All other branches of the Livingston Parish Library were closed as staffers came together to put on the parish’s largest celebration of books, which was first held in 2013 and has drawn as many as 1,600 people in years past.
“This is our biggest day,” said LPL Director Giovanni Tairov. “And our favorite day.”
Visitors were greeted by LPL staff members under the Main Branch’s pavilion, where they received bowls of steaming jambalaya from Swamp Box Cafe and cups of sweet tea from Raising Cane’s.
Racks of books were set up just inside the entrance, where visitors were allowed to pick up a free book before entering the library, which was filled with book-lovers of all ages for more than five hours.
Author’s Alley became Author’s Row, where published children’s authors, young adult authors, and adult authors sat behind tables lined down the walkway, discussing their work and signing copies of their books with patrons. Opposite of authors was Community Row, where representatives from non-profit organizations were on hand for consultation.
Headlining the guest authors was Stanley Nelson, a Pulitzer Prize finalist who currently serves as editor of the Concordia Sentinel in Ferriday, Louisiana. During his talk, Nelson discussed his book “Devil’s Walking,” which details a string of Civil Rights-era murders committed by the Ku Klux Klan in southwest Mississippi and northeastern Louisiana in the 1960s.
Nelson’s work led to the identification of members of the Silver Dollar Group, the most secretive Klan cell known in America. His book later became the basis of the blockbuster trilogy “Natchez Burning” by New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles, who didn’t necessarily give Nelson a happy ending.
“If you ever read [Iles’] book, you’ll get to read about my glorious death at the very end,” Nelson joked with those in attendance. “You can’t pay to die the way I died in that book.”
In addition to Nelson’s talk, several children’s authors led storytelling sessions in one of the library’s meeting rooms, where they read excerpts from their books with children sitting at their feet.
Some of the crowd favorites included Jasper Price, who took kids on a wild adventure with his engaging reading of “Zombie Asockalypse”; Michael Verrett, a retired homicide detective and police sketch artist who quickly pieced together cartoonish drawings for children; and Rickey Pittman, who read his book “Cajun ABC” before pulling out his guitar and singing.
At Author’s Row, one of the most popular draws was author Kai Dartt, who brought the main subject from her book “Narrations From a Spectator of Bean” — a spider. Dartt held the small spider in the palm of the hand throughout the book festival and even allowed some spider-lovers to hold it for themselves.
“He won’t bite,” she told a young girl after placing the spider on her arm.
A little further down from Dartt was children’s author Melinda Falgoust, who loudly announced each storytelling session while dressed as one of her crustacean characters from “Ten Little Crawfish.”
Another author who was plenty busy was J. Steven Spires, a New Orleans writer whose book “The Oak Tree” tells the story of Hurricane Katrina from the perspective of a particular family’s giant oak tree in the front yard.
“I wanted the story to be told from a different perspective than what people are used to,” Spires said while signing a copy of his book.
To Marcie Nelson, this year’s slate of authors offered a wider variety than in past festivals.
“I was really impressed with our lineup,” she said. “They really helped us bring the focus back to the books. We have a lot to offer at the library, but we wanted to bring the focus back to more books and literacy, as well.”
But as the library has shown in recent years, it had much more than books in store for visitors.
For live music, people were entertained by Elvis Presley tribute artist Jayson Alfano, who dressed in a white jumpsuit as he performed a medley of The King’s greatest hits After Alfano’s performance, people were treated to the snazzy sounds of the West Baton Rouge Oasis Jazz Band.
For teens, the library’s 3-D printer, virtual reality system, and tabletop gaming were at their disposal, though the VR system drew undoubtedly drew the longest lines throughout the entire day.
Young children had many options, as well, such as face painting, learning kits, arts and crafts, and balloon making. One thing they missed out on, however, was a 40-foot inflatable obstacle course that was nixed once the library decided to move the festival indoors.
“I was going to be the first person on it, too,” Marcie Nelson said with a laugh.
In addition, there was also a cake decorating demonstration — “Tripp’s Tasty Temptations” — for people of all ages. The program highlighted equipment from the LPL’s new Culinary Kit and cookbook collections.
“Our campaign has been ‘Discover More Than Books,’” Marcie Nelson said. “When we were thinking about this [Book Festival], we wanted to stress all that we have at the library, because there’s a lot. We stemmed from what we’re already doing and focused on everything we offer.”