Yesterday, for the second year in a row, my wife and I took the kids to the annual Children’s Book Festival, sponsored by Target and part of the city’s larger Vegas Valley Book Festival.
We agreed that out of all the local events we go to, this is our favorite.
It’s held in the beautiful Centennial Plaza, which is hidden away downtown across the street from the federal courthouse, somehow all but invisible from the surrounding areas. Parking was close, easy, free, and convenient. Dozens of booths offered kids free books from charitable contributors, as well as private authors hawking their own excellent work, and crafts, gifts, and other activities thrown in for more fun. Kids can get some free books, get their faces painted, and dance to the music piped in for the performers on a nearby stage.
We got our gift bags and made the rounds, starting with a couple of free snow cones, and meeting some characters in costumes as we went. My wife quickly found copies of the two volumes of The Chronicles of Narnia that we’re missing being given away. There was an area off in one courtyard for the “grown up” authors and readers, where authors were doing readings and autographs. The kids made bookmarks and coloring books at an arts and crafts booth. A booth sponsored by UNLV gave away posters for their sports teams. (I got three basketball posters–one for the boys’ room, one for my classroom, and one for my garage.)
At the end of our tour was a stand giving out Hebrew National hot dogs. We passed a great reproduction of the liberty bell on our way over. As we sat by a water fountain in the shade for our lunch, a local children’s orchestra started playing. The toppings available for our dogs even included jalapenos, and these were the sweetest ones I’d ever tasted.
I told my wife, “This is the kind of world I want my kids to grow up in,” then it got better: I noticed that the woman sitting next to us was wearing a T-shirt that said “Rearden Steel.” I told her that I’m also a fan of Atlas Shrugged, and asked where she got the shirt. She gave me a web site. Here it is: www.johngaltgifts.com.
There were people there of many different races and ages, but clearly we all shared a love of reading. There were plenty of people with multiple tattoos and piercings, but you know what? I didn’t hear a single person swear. Not once, the entire time. Clearly, this cross-section of our diversity was the cream of the crop, the exceptions to my “judge a book by its cover” rule, and it made me happy that so much variety could exist when literacy and civility are the norm.
Total cost of three hours of perfect family fun: zero dollars.
The weather was pleasant, the plaza was never crowded, and everything was spotless. I hope this festival remains a secret.
Except for you. I hope to see you there next year. I’d like to enjoy this oasis of joy with my friends’ families.