Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sarasota Reading Festival: RIP

The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports that the Reading Festival's board of directors met, canceled the festival, and are to dissolve the corporation. Apparently, mounting the festival was getting so costly that the charity goal of the fete, the raison d'etre of the whole proceeding, could not be met.

While quite understandable, it is- like so much of what goes on in Sarasota- penny wise and pound foolish. Granted, the funds when they were available were nice. But other the years, the festival became so much more. It was a true celebration of literacy. It was positively thrilling to my old bibliophile's heart to see the excitement on young people's faces, put there by books. You can read my transports over the last one on this blog.

The festival was a private undertaking, but its demise is symptomatic of a greater malaise in town. Sarasota which prides itself on its cultural heritage and sophistication seems to be hell bent on turning into any one of hundreds of Florida municipalities, bastions of materialism. If it is not quantifiable, it is cut back, eliminated. Budget shortfall? No problem- cut libraries, parks. Libraries are a "privilege" which not everyone uses, as if raising future citizens were producing widgets. And culture, well, apparently that is the province of the well-heeled. Coming from the New York City school of cultural egalitarianism, I still have difficulty with the concept.

I'll miss the reading festival where over the years I met quite a few of my favorite authors, including fellow Cuban Carolina Garcia Aguilera, who is an extremely nice lady. More importantly there are literally thousands of children who will never know what they missed.

6 comments:

Fermi said...

Why go to the trouble of reading something and having to use your own imagination, when you can wait till 'they' make it into a movie and you can watch it on the big screen. And if it never makes it to the movies, well then it wasn't worth reading in the first place. So to hell with the libraries, just open up another multiplex!

Ms Calabaza said...

that's a damn shame for Sarasota. I liked that town as I lived in Punta Gorda for a year in the late 90's. If you get the chance try to go to the National Book Fair on the mall in DC. It's usually in late September and it's well worth it. I try to go every year.

Denise said...

I came across your blog when I googled the Sarasota Reading Festival. I was just thinking it was coming up soon and am so sad to see that it's not happening at all. My children are 2 and 4 and the two years we've gone were some of the best days of their precious little lives. What a shame.

Annie said...

I just found out that the Reading Fest is no more. It's hard to conceive that in this town where fundraisers abound that not enough money was generated to keep it going. I wonder if the board lokoked into Miami's Book Fest and those of other cities to see how ours might be saved. It's a sad loss of a venue that fully rounded out Sarasota as a cultural locale.

rsnlk said...

To those who have commented, I share your dismay. I also hope that something new can be developed.

Anonymous said...

To all those Sarasota folks, our Children's Garden is taking charge of a Children's Reading Day! Free admission, illustrators, authors, vendors, etc. Nov. 23 10a-5p. www.childrensreadingday.org