Beforeglow, not a word because my computer quickly drew its bright red line, should be one. Some things begin before they start like our trip to the inaugural Mississippi Book Festival.
The beforeglow began with the arrival of three bookworm cronies from the New Orleans area for Friday lunch. Words were cast around the table between bites until our plates were empty. We left table cleanup to the resident Butler (Al) and headed to Jackson with words spilling back and forth all the way and arrived just in time to meet our longtime friend and festival presenter, Kimberly Willis Holt, for coffee and more word flow. Words continued through dinner and past normal bedtimes.
Saturday morning, we stood in place ready for the event as the band played a rousing welcome. Crowd favorites included patriotic renditions of “America” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” Attendees were stunned with the announcement that this talented group had been together at Jackson State University band camp for only two weeks!
The welcome ceremony led by John Grisham preceded the only festival glitch. We arrived at our first session to find the room already filled to fire marshal capacity – and we had not lollygagged to get there. Thinking it was “Harper Lee Considered” popularity, we tried a second group only to find it full as well. Not to be daunted, we stood in line for our second hour choice to be sure we had a place! Rumors floating around during the day said these were not the only sessions leaving people frustrated by fire marshal regulations! Who would have anticipated that the very first Mississippi Book Festival would have been attended by more than 3,000 people? Truly an embarrassment of riches!
We filled the rest of the day – in crowded rooms – hearing sessions on “Children’s Books,” “Young Readers,” “What Reading Means for Our Culture,” greeting our other bookworm friends old and new, and buying a few books to get signatures.
The John Grisham session illustrated the event’s camaraderie. As he tried to get his tale straight of driving up highway 55 during his first writing venture, he stalled, saying, “Winona Stuckey’s, maybe.” Several voices in the crowd yelled, “Vaiden Stuckey’s.” Having righted his location, he continued his story. An audience favorite was his “hard teacher” story, interrupted with the revelation that she was sitting a couple of rows back. She stood to acknowledge the great crowd applause.
Afterglow began as words of remembrance flew in the car as we headed home and were shared around the table with the resident Butler who had grilled hamburgers for our first real sustenance of the day – no time during the event to eat more than the cookies we had squirreled away. It continues as I mark my calendar for next year on August 20, 2016. I’m confident the planners will anticipate spectacular attendance and figure out a way to keep both the attendees and the fire marshal happy.