By Lynn Fitzpatrick
When the Library of Congress, The Washington Post, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Penguin, Barnes & Noble, Readaloud.org, Scholastic, PBS, numerous other organizations and 1,200 volunteers collaborate, what do you get? The National Book Festival on The Mall of our nation’s Capital, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, poets, illustrators, story tells, TV, radio and music personalities and well over 150,000 visitors. Last year’s total was 150,000 eager readers. This year’s expanded two-day event in iffy weather is sure to have drawn out a bigger crowd.
As in many of the popular events, which I have attended this year, there was something for everybody – age, ethnicity, creed and interests. It was free and there were a lot of happy campers. Expansive tents, larger than those at any America’s Cup event doubled as pavilions – Graphic Novels, State Poets Laureate, Children, Contemporary Life, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Poetry & Prose and Teens.
There was a special new pavilion called the Family Storytelling Stage. Dashing from the History & Biography tent to a book signing with one of my favorite authors, I had time to listen in to Cedella Marley and her son reading her latest book to an enthralled group of kids. She has been keeping her father’s message and memory alive by placing the lyrics to her father’s song, One Love, together with great graphics. She ended with everybody swaying and singing “Let’s get together and be al right.” Imagine that! A song loved by sailors world ‘round appealing to a multi-ethnic, multi-generational audience!
The busiest tent of all, you ask? Bien sur, it was the book sales pavilion. How often does Barnes & Noble have over foot traffic of 150,000 – 200,000 in a single weekend with guest appearances by best-selling authors and over twenty lanes of purchasers lined up to get their books signed?!
So if the America’s Cup organizers are so dense that they haven’t caught on yet and are going to continue to spend exorbitant amounts of money to stage poorly attended events with limited sponsorship, maybe this will hit closer to home. There with a buffed out red stage coach, a live-sized stuffed pony and employees dressed in period costume was none other than Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo drew in the youngsters and distributed very impressive books to their adult chaperones. The fist sentence of the book reads, “When Henry Wells and William G. Fargo founded Wells Fargo & Company in New York in March of 1852, they couldn’t have imagined they were creating a business enterprise that would become an American legend and one of America’s – and the world’s – best known brands.”
Wouldn’t you think that the ACEA; CA Lt. Governor and Ambassador for the America’s Cup, Gavin Newsom; and the supernumeraries on the ACOC, including Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf and Keith McKneely, President of External Affairs AT&T Corp; could get Wells Fargo and AT&T to step up to the plate in a big way and take an interest in the world’s oldest sporting trophy, the next finals of which are to be staged in a city synonymous with Wells Fargo and the gold rush? The America’s Cup can’t rely on the private corporate generosity of Louis Vuitton, the company founded in Paris in 1854, forever.
The other odd thing, with all the people on The Mall this weekend, one would think that that National Park Helicopter would have been patrolling as it did during 9/11. There was no sign of it. However, the Federal Reserve was still cordoned off and there were legions of armed men in black defending the IMF and the World Bank environs. Why do the criminals continue to drain the world’s resources and persistently deliver such abysmal results? No offense to Mme. Christine Lagarde. I’m a big fan of hers and I hope that she continues to ask hard questions, call a spade a spade and outclass them all.