Despite headlines about the ascendency of ebooks, physical copies were in demand Saturday at the first-annual Chappaqua Children's Book Festival.
The festival, held in front of Robert E. Bell Middle School and in the garden of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, enjoyed high turnout reported and 65 authors participating. With books on sale and available for autographing, there were even sell outs, according to Dawn Greenberg, who came up with the idea for the event.
The origin of having a book festival in Chappaqua, which also drew in an array of kid-friendly merchants, came after Sunnyside announced in February that it was discounting a similar event it had run for 15 years, Greenberg explained. She also wanted a date in the fall that would not conflict with other festivals.
Greenberg, who also owns the downtown store Aurora, reached out to friends about the idea. One of them, Madeline Finesmith, called back while she was away on a spring break and expressed interest.
“I said I'm in," Finesmith said. She organized the event's logistics and was one of several who chipped in to help make the event happen.
Word of mouth, Metro-North ads and promotions in local media were all part of a push.
Most of the authors live in Westchester County, Greenberg said, with some who live in locations like New York City and Connecticut.
While authors sat amidst the bustle and signed autographs, some were scheduled to give readings. One of them, Croton-on-Hudson's Gloria Pinkney, read to folks in the secluded garden space behind the church.
“It is wonderful that books are alive and well,” she said.
With a physical book, she explained, it's “just a unique feeling. Nothing else gives that.”
Pinkey, who has written five books, is married to illustrator Jerry Pinkney and they have two sons with literary careers.
Greenberg also believes in the role of the physical book, saying saying, “I fully believe books are here to stay. They're not going anywhere.”
Greenberg replied that turnout was very high and weather cooperated. There is already interest in doing another festival next year.
“This is an amazing book festival," said Tommy Greenwald, who was one of the authors participating. He said he sold about 75 to 100 books.
Guests interviewed were also happy with the event.
“It's been a lot of fun," said Goldens Bridge resident Deirdre Martinez. "The kids are really enjoying themselves.”
“Oh, it's amazing," said Sumedha Goel, a Chappaqua resident who brought her daughter along.
“I think it was a tremendously successful event," said Laura Desmarais, who was liaison to Girl Scout volunteers who had an event table. "There were people here enjoying it and excited about the authors all day long.”
Desmarais also noted that there were a lot of people purchasing books or in line for authors.
The festival also had a significant partner from this year's Great Chappaqua Bake Sale.
Holly Blum, a co-chair for the event, said they came together with book festival organizers and decided it would be a “win-win for both of us, particularly given the fact that when a child is hungry their academic potential can be really highly impacted, particularly when it comes to literacy.”
Prizes for the bake sale, which raises money to deal with childhood hunger, were donated by more than 100 businesses and more than 80 people in the community bake for it, Blum noted. She also expected a higher turnout and said that there were more baked goods this year.