Locals have been occupying Baltimore since October 4, 2011. Baltimore Brew notes that the initial cadre consisted of 36 people. The growing national and international protest finds its Baltimore home in McKeldin Plaza, directly adjacent to the city’s popular tourist venue, Harbor Place. The city’s inner harbor area has been the scene of many free speech kerfuffles in recent history.
Sunday tourists and locals alike wandered through or drove past the plaza on a sunny afternoon. While occupiers arose, cleaned up, and strategized the rhythm of drums and the strains of folk music added a festive air to the encampment. The serious business of the day will take shape as the sun goes down. The daily “General Assembly” starts at 8:00 PM.
Ten months of planning came together on a rainy Friday, September 23 as the 2011 Baltimore Book Festival, the city’s 16th, opened. The annual event goes on rain or shine at Mt. Vernon Place in downtown Baltimore. The three-day festival features both local and nationally renowned authors as well as live music.
Baltimore Book Festival opens in the rain. (Source: Greg Cundiff)
Regional Literary Culture
Literary life thrives in the Mid-Atlantic region with both Baltimore and Washington D.C. hosting book festivals at the end of September. This year the Library of Congress expanded the National Book Festival to a two-day event. Mary Carole McCauley of the Baltimore Sunframed this as a competition between the two cities. She quotes Judy Cooper of the Enoch Pratt Free Library as saying, “We started it. We were the first in the area. And now that they’re running for two days instead of just one, it is kind of a problem.” In the same article both Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Kathy Hornig of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts (BOPA) indicated that they were not concerned about one festival detracting from the other. Speaking to Sustainworx, Heather St. Clair said, “It speaks to the quality of the readers in the region that we can support two events like this.”
Pulling off a quality event is no mean task. Randi Vega, Director of Cultural Affairs for BOPA said that a core staff of five begins planning the event in December. However, ultimately the entire organization has a hand in the planning and execution of the event. In a separate interview St. Clair said that 33 staffers were involved in all aspects of the festival. In addition to BOPA staff an army of 100 volunteers work in a variety of capacities to ensure that the festival is a great experience for festivalgoers and authors alike according to BOPA Volunteer Coordinator, Debbie Zink. According to Zink the 100 volunteers contributed about 628 hours worth of effort in activities as varied as bicycle parkers, children’s craft helpers, and author hospitality hosts. Zink said that she enjoys most about the Book Festival is that owing to its smaller scale compared to ArtScape it is a “pleasure to see everyone again, and spend more time with the volunteers.”
Story book characters roam the festival to delight young and old. (Source: Greg Cundiff)
Events such as this quite often live or die by the weather forecast. The weekend’s was not promising. It rained all day Friday, quite heavily at times. Despite the rain, members of the Maryland Romance Writers that gave a noontime presentation were greeted with a packed house. Festival participants were treated to much nicer weather on Saturday and Sunday. The final musical performance on Sunday under clear skies featured Navasha Daya. Her neo soul act had the crowd clapping and dancing.
Navasha Daya performing at the Baltimore Book Festival, September 25, 2011 (Source: Greg Cundiff)
According to the Festival website, “The Baltimore Book Festival features more than 200 authors speaking on 7 stages throughout the festival!” Among this year’s presenting authors, Sherman Alexie talked about his book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian; Laura Lippman talked about her book, The Most Dangerous Thing; and Tavis Smiley talked about his book Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure.
Fr. Tony promotes, Grace Before Meals. (Source: Greg Cundiff)