I've just returned from what I've added to my top ten list of speaking engagements. If you are an author or illustrator and you are ever asked to speak at the Cedar Valley Arts Festival in Cedartown, Georgia in Polk County - GO. But look up two words in the dictionary first: family and community. Cedartown is included in both their definitions. A wrong turn ended up taking me right down the entire length of main street, and I couldn't have imagined a more perfect little town - pure Americana.
The Arts Festival was set up in a lovely, recently renovated, and well maintained park filled with tall trees, cool shade, and a winding walking path that led me in a circle through just enough booths filled with interesting things for everybody to enjoy. Families were everywhere, some playing catch in the central area, others supporting their children in the chorus or dance routines. And all the support was overlapping because this is a small town where everybody knows everybody – the comeraderie and casual ease which exists in an atmosphere like that was obvious. There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, and Cedartown definitely has that village feel.
The stage was set in the middle of the new water fountain (turned off for the occassion) and surrounded by ampitheater-like seating. The pictures don't do it or the crowd justice - there were tons of people standing under trees all around the stage. And as my presentation went on, the crowd increased exponentially. I wore the sombrero for shade - although I don't know why hats are thought to keep you cool! I read Paco with all its fun voices. We played telephone, which worked this time! (Paco is an adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk, and I talk about how stories change as they are handed down from teller to teller.) I quizzed the children on the Spanish words introduced in Paco and gave away sombreros and maracas. And then we drew Rosebud, pink this time, in all her vaca glory.
I loved sharing Paco with this crowd, especially since 47% of the town's population is now Latino. And they have been embraced by their community. The schools are eagerly rising to meet the needs of their Latino students and gushed about what a perfect fit Paco was for their students.
Smiles were everywhere and everybody was so gracious. It was such an enjoyable day, I didn't want to leave. But home was an hour and a half away and my doggies awaited. I wish I could have stayed much, much longer.
Thanks to Ahren Lee for inviting me, Kris of the Rome Barnes & Noble who so generously ordered a ton of my books, and to all the volunteers of which there were many, especially those from the Cedartown Junior Service League. Any time you want me back - I'm there with bells on.