By Kari Counter, Alsha Khan, Caroline Manning, Monica Zhang
The sound of clanking metal, classical music, and screaming children cut through the crisp autumn air. Rows of tents filled with food, crafts, and games surrounded the park grounds. Crowds of people wandered throughout the area, among them: Prince Charming, Hansel and Gretal, Katniss Everdeen, and a plethora of Disney princesses.
This was the scene at the Cedar Park Public Library Foundation’s fifth annual Fable Fest, held Nov. 2 at Millburn Park. This year’s event was its biggest and most profitable year to date according to Julia Mitschke, Cedar Park Public Library operations manager, Fable Fest Committee Member, and Fable Fest Founding Committee member.
“We thought, wouldn’t it be fun for the library to have a cool festival that was imagination and fantasy-themed and something that really spoke to literacy but also to storytelling?” said Mitschke. “The Cedar Park Parks and Recreation Department had a lot of really popular family friendly festivals in the past where the whole community came out, so we thought we could do the same thing for the library.”
Fable Fest was created in 2009 as a way to promote and raise money for the Cedar Park Public Library, specifically towards services and technology resources. Part of Fable Fest’s goals is to encourage children to read. To this effect, the winners of the libraries summer reading program are honored at the event, playing a large role in promoting and raising involvement in the program. According to Rebecca Leo, Board Member and chairman of Fable Fest, the emphasis on literacy and the importance of the library are the key reasons for the event.
“It’s been shown that literacy is extremely important for success in school and all throughout live,” said Leo. “A library is really important to a community because without it, it’s difficult for the entire community to be well-read and to be an intelligent contributing part of the community.”
However, raising money for the library and promoting the summer reading program are not the only goals of Fable Fest. Mitschke says the event is truly a community event focused on bringing Cedar Park together in the context of the library.
“Another goal we have is community outreach and something out in the community that raises visibility of the library,” said Mitschke. “We have a lot of people that come into the library who are already aware of our services, but when we have a festival out in the community, there are people who come who have never heard of the library. They can see the impact it has on the community.”
Since Cedar Park is largely a community of families with young children, Fable Fest encompasses a range of activities and booths to keep children entertained and spark parent’s interest. Troubadour’s Court is the main stage located next to the entrance where the program is directed from and members of the community can put on plays. Acts this year included community theatre group Way Off Broadway and local high school bands and theatre classes. For the parents, Cobblestone Market provides attendees the opportunity to explore local vendors. This year the vendors included banks, jewelry shops, insurance companies, book stores, and chiropractors among others.
When the kids get hungry, Pig’s Pub contains tents offering a variety of food from cotton candy to grilled corn to hot dogs. King’s Carnival includes three areas for kids to enjoy offering games sponsored by local companies, opportunities to win toys, Mother Goose’s reading tent, face painting and other craft activities, and bouncy houses. There are also activity areas with jousting shows, two blacksmiths at work, a petting zoo, and a train for kids.
“The blacksmith helped kids make rods out of steel. They took a hammer and when it was red hot, they’d hit the steel with it,” said Leo of the blacksmiths.
The myriad of events and tents at the festival called for a number of volunteers from the community to make Fable Fest successful. According to Mitschke, most the volunteers are members of the community with no direct affiliation to the library, which indclude high school students, service organizations, and community groups. The help of these volunteers and the variety of offerings at Fable created for a successful event all around.
“It was really fun to see happy vendors, happy people at Fable Fest, and to see the library being promoted as well,” said Leo.
That success transferred into the profits Fable Fest yielded. According to Leo this was the best year yet and financially more successful than any prior year. Profits come from vendors, sponsors, and ticket sales. This year’s title sponsor was Signature Eyecare, a local eye care facility run by Dr. Lou.
When the event first started in 2009 it raised $2,500 for the library, this year Fable Fest provided the library with $21,000. Even from last year’s profits, that is a 21 percent increase in profits. Mitschke has been pleased to see an increase in profits and participation over the years.
“We’ve had an increase in the number of people that come every year and an increase in the amount of money we’ve been able to raise for the library every year,” said Mitschke. “It’s just gotten bigger and bigger.”
Attendance at the festival and profits are not the only aspects of Fable Fest to increase. The event itself has expanded over the year especially from last year to this year. For example, the number of vendors nearly doubled from 22 last year to 42 this year. Despite all the success the event still had room to grow according to Mitschke and Leo. Mitscheke says the board wants to incorporate falconry and archery to accompany jousting and the blacksmiths in the activities area next year. While Leo says the board is looking to expand the appeal of the festival beyond families with young children.
“We want to make it a little more teenager and adult-oriented so our plan is to go to other Renaissance festivals and tailor it to older crowds,” said Leo.
These possible improvements serve the common goal of the board towards the continued success of the festival and promotion of the library and literacy in the Cedar Park community. Or as Mitschke puts it: “We just want to grow every year.”