Thousands flock to Capitol Park for Louisiana Book Festival
From the State Capitol all the way down through Capitol Park to the State Library and Museum, thousands of readers perused and purchased books of all sizes and topics from hundreds of sellers Saturday at the Louisiana Book Festival.
Large tents housed displays of major booksellers, non profits and a few state agencies while a variety of music styles drifted from a nearby stage. A tasty blend of aromas wafting from food booths tempted families and children across the sprawling event.
“It’s a glorious day to be out here,” said Prairieville resident and Baton Rouge native Lucille Henagan Manela who was with her son Jonathan, 14. “We’ve heard about this for years and had never made it and here we are.”
As a flock of white pelicans circled high above in the clear blue sky, retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russell Honoré , who was selling his book, “Leadership in the New Normal, A Short Course,” agreed with Manela.
“This is the best weather we’ve ever had,” Honoré said, having been here for several annual events.
Honoré said he’d sold many copies of his books and was telling his table’s visitors, “we’ve got to save our water in Louisiana. If we don’t save our water it’ll destroy our way of life. Our drinking water and our recreation water have got to be safe.”
Joe Segura and his wife Audrey and daughter Marissa had lived in Texas for many years before moving to Baton Rouge. Segura said he was interested in Cajun-themed books.
“I really like the Cajun culture — and especially the food,” Segura said.
One of the biggest hits of the event was a six-foot-tall Clifford the big red dog, who was mobbed by children wanting to hug him.
“It’s fun!” declared actor Elijah Wilson from inside the shaggy costume, as Pascal Aucoin, 4, and his sister, Beatrice Aucoin, 3, posed for photos.
“We come to the festival every year,” said grandma Marsha Aucoin as she snapped cellphone photos of the children with Clifford.
Kara Casanova, of Baton Rouge, was pitching her “Elvis the Penguin,” children’s book that was just published this last week and will be officially launched on Nov. 17, at Barnes & Noble on Perkins Rowe.
“This is my first year here and it started selling immediately,” Casanova said.
Her story describes the adventures of a young penguin born with a crop of head feathers that resemble Elvis Presley. The story includes lines from popular Elvis hits, she said, and has a theme of tolerance and inclusion.
Just up the sidewalk, children’s author Vicky C. Branton and her best friend Eileen Britain Hanson were selling Branton’s colorful paperback, “Donkey Otie’s Forever Birthday Story,” a simple poem about the donkey who carried the pregnant Virgin Mary to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.
During a church ministry a decade ago, Branton said, she had been ministering to Eileen Hanson’s dying husband Mike, who regretted not telling his children the Bible story. The book is dedicated to him and the now-grown children.
“I woke up in the middle of the night, and God just deposited this poem in me,” Branton said. “Donkey Otie was a stuttering, lonely young donkey and had to carry this heavy lady and didn’t like his job, but when he met the baby Jesus, he found there was a whole new world of love and it changed his life.”
Brent and Leslie Waguespack, of Dutchtown, were at Branton’s table with their children, Aaron, 3, Alise, 5, and Nathan, 8, and terrier-mix Pepper.
“We all love books,” Leslie Waguespack said, “and we love to see all the local authors.”
A few tables away Devin Guillard was selling, “Hood Struggle,” his personal story of growing up in gritty, south Baton Rouge. The front cover photo is a stark black-and-white image of South 16th Street.
“Even though I’m a person who messed some things up when I was younger, it’s never too late to change,” Guillard said. “There is always a chance. Never give up on your dreams.”
Up in the State Capitol, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Rebecca Hamilton were scheduled to honor Christine Wiltz as the Louisiana Writer of the Year. Both the House and Senate chambers and eight House and Senate committee rooms were crowded with readers awaiting dozens of authors who were signing their books every 15 minutes throughout the day.