The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held its own during the weekend of April 12th and 13th, considering the two huge events taking place South of Los Angeles. The 19th Edition of the Festival, with the theme Inspire Your Fire, took place on the beautiful campus of the University of Southern California (USC).
Over 150,000 book lovers came from near and far to celebrate the written word on this pleasantly warm weekend.
The festival kicked off into high gear with a roaring performance of the USC Marching Band, directed by Art Bartner. This has become a Festival of Books tradition. The band entertained the crowd with the following tunes "In the Stone" by Earth Wind and Fire, "Kids Aren't Alright" by USC graduate Dexter Holland and "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar.
L.A. Times CEO Eddy Hartenstein and Mr. Thomas S. Sayles, Senior Vice President of University Relations welcomed all gathered in the main quad (Hahn Plaza) of the campus. USC Song Contest Winner, Catherine Rose Smith performed "Learn From You" an original tune.
My next stop was Bovard Auditorium for the timely panel about Cesar Chavez entitled "The Man, the Myths and the Legacy." The panel featured Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez interviewing Eliseo Medina and Miriam Pawell, author of "Crusades of Cesar Chavez." The panel offered compelling and humorous stories of Mr. Chavez. The crowd and I left with a better understanding and deeper appreciation of Cesar Chavez and the movement that he started. Cesar Chavez left a lasting legacy as evidence by the new generation of social activists.
Local Spanish newspaper HOY celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a wonderful two day festival within the festival. The talented youth of Woodcraft Rangers Mariachi and Folkloric captivated the crowd with the sounds and dances of various regions of Mexico. The celebration on the HOY Stage ended on a high note, (literally) with a conversation and book signing with Los Angeles Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol. Mr. Gasol signed copies of his debut book Life/Vida for hundreds of fans.
Additional entertainment was provided on the Pop & Hiss Stage. Mexico68 is a popular local band who played a contagious set of Afro beat reminiscent of the late great Fela Kuti. The crowd busted out their best dance moves on the following tunes "Water No Get Enemy" followed by several original tunes "Watcha Talking About," and "Kingdom Orators." They concluded their crowd pleasing set with "Paytriot."
Day two of the festival provided more highlights consisting of actor Diego Luna (pictured) reading Cesar Chavez Y La Maquina Del Tiempo by Juan Carlos Quezadas and Bef on the Children's Stage, followed by a book signing.
Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band thoroughly engaged and entertained the kids and their parents on the Children's Stage with a high energy set of tunes "Lines & Dots," "Things Amigia," "Blue Bear," "Freeze Dance," "La Vibora," "Race Car," and "Let's Dance" with plenty of audience participation.
Poet Sandra Cisneros recited selected poems on the Poetry Stage and participated in a conversation with Michael Silverblatt in Bovard Auditorium to talk about her latest book Have You Seen Marie?
HOY Stage featured a return engagement of Woodcraft Rangers Mariachi and Folkloric, two exciting and interesting panels "A Latino Point of View of the United States" featuring Laureano Garcia and Rick Najera and "The Future of Spanish Language Journalism" featuring Jessica M. Retis and Leon Krauze and two Children's Readings presented by First 5 and 826LA respectively.