When economic woes ended Charlotte’s popular Novello Festival of Reading in 2009, readers were not happy.
“There’s been a huge outcry to have that back,” said Jenni Gaisbauer, executive director of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation. “But we cannot bring it back. It was really expensive for the library system, and it was hard to justify that when we were going through all the budget cuts.”
The idea of bringing people together in Charlotte to celebrate books did not wither, however. The library system recently created Verse & Vino, a one-night event with a cocktail reception, book sales and signing, dinner and program, but the event is only for adults. The inaugural event took place in November 2014.
Now, area children will also have a literary event thanks to a donation from Charlotte resident Jim Preston in honor of his late wife Libby, a longtime children’s librarian and book lover.
Preston asked the Library Foundation to bring him some ideas, and they responded with a proposal for a children’s literary festival.
“He loved it,” Gaisbauer said. “(The Preston family) gave us the opportunity, and it was something we knew we wanted and needed to do.”
The first EpicFest will be Nov. 6-7 and will include 10 children’s authors who spend the day at ImaginOn signing books and talking to children.
EpicFest is a key opportunity to connect caregivers and families with the library to help develop a child’s passion for reading.
Jay Everette, Wells Fargo senior vice president and community affairs
The name of the festival came out of a discussion with Preston, who mentioned that he often heard his grandchildren use the term “epic.”
Gaisbauer said Preston and his daughter Mary Lane Lennon, who have worked on the planning team for the festival, wanted the event to be interesting for children up to age 18. They also wanted it to be free.
The festival will begin on Friday, Nov. 6 as each author visits two Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools campuses. Some will visit classrooms, while others will speak at assemblies.
On Saturday, Nov. 7, ImaginOn will host all 10 authors:
▪ Byron Garrett, author and chairman of the National Family Engagement Alliance and recent Root 100 honoree
▪ Tad Hills, a New York Times bestselling children’s book author and illustrator of the popular “Duck & Goose” and “Rocket” series
▪ Claudia Mills, author of more than 50 books for young readers, including recent titles “Zero Tolerance,” “The Trouble with Ants” and “Izzy Barr, Running Star”
▪ Matt Myers, painter and illustrator of many children’s books, including “Battle Bunny,” “Scarecrow Magic,” “What James Said” and “Cock-A-Doodle-Doo-Bop”
▪ Lauren Oliver, a New York Times bestselling author of young adult novels “Before I Fall,” “Panic,” “Vanishing Girls” and the “Delirium” trilogy
▪ Brendan Reichs, a Charlotte native and co-author of the New York Times bestselling “Virals” series
▪ Melissa Thomson, an elementary school teacher in New York City and author of the “Keena Ford” series
▪ Sheila Turnage, author of New York Times bestseller and Newbery Honor winner “Three Times Lucky”
▪ Maya Van Wagenen, a 17-year-old, award-winning teen author; her first full-length non-fiction book project, “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek,” debuted on the New York Times bestseller list
▪ Carole Boston Weatherford, a New York Times bestselling author and poet whose published work includes “Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom”
The festival also will include Lego building, robotics, early learning stations for toddlers and a coffee shop for teens. The Library Foundation also has enlisted teenagers to cover the event live on social media.
All children who attend will receive a free book.
The afternoon will end with a family concert by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, a “kid-hop” musician from Asheville known for rapping, singing, harmonies and Motown-inspired dance moves in ImaginOn’s large theater.
The authors will speak throughout the day on the stages in ImaginOn, and their books will be for sale.
“We’re really excited about how it’s turned out,” Gaisbauer said of the festival.
She praised Lennon and Preston for their support and involvement in EpicFest.
“They want to make an impact, and,” she said, “to see this, it’s a beautiful thing.”
The Prestons have asked that EpicFest become an annual event, and the Library Foundation have added corporate sponsors that include Wells Fargo and the National Endowment for the Humanities to help support it.
“Wells Fargo is proud to partner with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation to present EpicFest to children and families in Mecklenburg County,” said Jay Everette, Wells Fargo senior vice president and community affairs manager in a press statement. “EpicFest is a key opportunity to connect caregivers and families with the library to help develop a child’s passion for reading.”
Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
Want to go?
EpicFest will be from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Nov. 7 at ImaginOn, 300 E. 7th St. All events are free and open to the public.
For more information, including parking information and a schedule for EpicFest, visit http://foundation.cmlibrary.org/epicfest.