Held on the streets surrounding the downtown library, the festival celebrates literacy and the power of words in every form — written, sung, spoken and read — through live author readings, musical performances, vendors and street theatre.
“This is the third year that the Library will be hosting the festival; it definitely provides an opportunity for the Library to connect with the community in a fun way,” says library CEO Tony Vanden Heuvel.
The local festival is part of a national campaign to promote literacy and is held in five cities — Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener, Toronto and Halifx — on the same weekend across Canada.
It has become one of the world’s largest literary celebrations. In 2012, almost 270,000 visitors attended 440 programmed events featuring 650 authors, workshop presenters and arts performers.
In addition, the festivals showcased 590 book and magazine exhibitors, many of them small press operators, independent authors and writing associations who benefit from their exposure at the festival.
As part of the festival’s commitment to literacy, 10 per cent of the total exhibit space is dedicated to literacy organizations.
“It gives us a chance to work together with national and local sponsors and volunteers and to showcase authors and talent to highlight the festival’s theme: advocating literacy and celebrating reading,” says Vanden Heuvel.
About 3,100 people attended the local festival last year, which was a 42 per cent increase from the first time the event was held in 2011. This year, about 4,500 are expected to attend the one-day event.
Bonnie Mikalson-Andron, programming officer with the public library and WOTS co-ordinator, says organizers have ensured there will be something of interest for people of all ages at the free event running from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“With such a wide variety of activities for everyone, you never know what’s going to spark a new interest,” she says. “There will be so much going on from storytelling to song writing to poetry.”
For the first time, organizers have included some pre-festival events to encourage festival goers to get in the spirit.
These include an evening book club discussion of author Marina Endicott’s The Little Shadows, a screenwriting workshop with Bob Cousins, and Romancapalooza, a celebration of the romance genre complete with chocolate tasting, dramatic readings, trivia, and a Romance Cover Pose Off.
Mikalson-Andron says an impressive line-up of storytellers will be performing at the festival with stories, songs and fun for the whole family, including Gail de Vos, Storytelling World Award winner. Robert Heidbreder, an Albertan children’s author and puppeteer, and Celia Barker Lottridge, a Canadian storyteller and author, whose stories have inspired generations of readers and listeners.
Other authors participating are Cassie Stocks, Ali Bryan, Annette Lapointe, Audrey Whitson, Jani Krulik, Lise Gaboury-Diallo, Terry Anne Carter, Douglas Barbour, Richard Stevenson, Ken Sears, Katie McGarry, Marissa Meyer, Caanan Grall, Norah McClintock, Erin Dingle, Paul Finkleman and Andrew Prefontaine.
Paige McGeorge, the library’s Teenbrarian, says in addition to live presenters in the Teen Zone, some special guests will be joining the festival via Skype.
“We’re starting the day with an hour-long comics creation workshop, followed by conversations about teen mysteries, romances, science fiction and more.
“We’ve got a songwriter and a storyteller, and some great hands-on book crafts. And remember — the more sessions you come to, the better your odds of winning special prizes from our authors!” says McGeorge.
This year, two new workshops being held include Words Sung: Song Writing Workshop with Karen Romanchuck and a Haiku and Prayer Flag Workshop with Terry Ann Carter.
Local talent performing at the festival includes Hippodrome, Junkman’s Choir, Bryant & Watson Duo, Karen Romanchuk, HB30, Young Medicine and Hibikiya.
There will also be performances by the Canadian Bhutanese Society Dancers, These Hips Can Hoop, the Medieval Society and Gorilla Poetry by the League of Canadian Poets.
Mikalson-Andron says about 40 vendors will be featured in the Marketplace, with the University of Lethbridge Bookstore providing a retail outlet that gives festival goers the opportunity to have newly purchased books signed by the authors in attendance.
“And we can’t forget the food, come down and enjoy the Smokehouse BBQ, Hawaiian Ice, M & M Meats, Mini Melts, Two Guys and a Pizza Place, and a crowd favorite, Westwinds Kettle Corn,” Mikalson-Andron says.
For a complete list of authors, performers, vendors and schedule of events, please visit the Lethbridge Word on the Street website at: http://www.thewordonthestreet.ca/wots/lethbridge.