Well, the Festival™ is over, the awards have been handed out, the kids have been filled full of sugar, reunited with their teachers and sent home, and now – I’m fairly certain – all of the OLA staff and volunteers are breathing a big sigh of relief and taking a nap.
The day started off looking like this:
The games area – after the set up, and before the onslaught.
The empty lawn, complete with neatly vacuumed AstroTurf. (No, really. That’s not grass.)
And then things started to get busy…
The second day brought us a thousand more students than we had on Wednesday, and it showed. The lawn was packed, the line-ups were often several hundred people long, and the screaming emanating from the Sirius Stage every time a winning author was announced was even more deafening – a feat I didn’t think possible, but clearly, I underestimated these kids.
When I attended the festival as a student, back in 1997, it was a one-day event contained in a single large conference room, and the authors and book signings were the main attraction. Fourteen years later, the Festival of Trees™ takes place over two days and occupies the whole of the Harbourfront Centre. The authors, illustrators, and signing lines are still there, but now, they also have a large sales tent where students can buy their own copies of the books, games, live music from local student groups, workshops, canoeing, and a massive awards ceremony for each category. In short, this is a Big. Deal. (Pictures from previous years can be found here, so you’ll have some idea of what I’m talking about.)
Thankfully, the rain held off until just before two o’clock, just in time for the students to head back to their schools.
The Natrel Pond.
And this was how the day ended – with lots of clouds and people hiding from the rain.
The Final Round-Up
I can’t begin to describe how thoroughly impressed I was with every single aspect of this year’s festival. The level of organization and the OLA staff were superb, and I’m truly in awe of their ability to handle that level of insanity with enthusiasm and smiles every step of the way. By the way, calling this “insanity” isn’t a slight at anyone; when you get eight thousand excited kids in one spot, it’s naturally a little crazy. But the staff and volunteers were patient, enthusiastic, and a joy to work with; I hope they’ll let me come back next year.
And speaking of the kids, again, I’m left with nothing else to say but “wow!” Every kid I spoke to over the two days was enthusiastic, excited, and pretty darn cool. And even in all of their excitement, they always manged to be gracious and polite. Whether I was handing out books or candy, giving directions, or answering questions, I always got a “thank-you” and a smile.
For library technicians – or library students – I cannot recommend this event highly enough, whether you’re interested in volunteering or participating. One of the reasons that these events run is because they have volunteers to help out; with an event that’s this large, a lot of hands are needed to make things work, and it’s a great way to get involved, get experience, and meet other library professionals – I met OLA members, teachers, librarians, and other technicians, and had a great time speaking with each and every person I met. It’s also a great way to meet authors, if this is something that interests you. (I may or may not have turned into a bit of a fangirl myself when I saw Gordon Korman. . .)
If you’re working in a school or public library, this is also a great initiative to get involved in, because it’s one more way to get people reading, especially kids. Many of the teachers and school librarians I spoke with cited supportive classroom teachers and principals as one of the keys to getting this program of the ground for the first time, but the program itself could also be used to build support for libraries and literacy – and Canadian literature – within a school.
So, there’s lots to think about and lots of new ideas to consider. I can’t wait to see what next year’s festival brings.