Day of the Books celebration to return as a drive-thru event May 1

Posted 4/21/21

SILER CITY — Last year, COVID-19 restrictions turned the Chatham County Partnership for Children’s interactive, walk-through Day of the Books celebration into a no-contact drive-in.

This year, …

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Day of the Books celebration to return as a drive-thru event May 1

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SILER CITY — Last year, COVID-19 restrictions turned the Chatham County Partnership for Children’s interactive, walk-through Day of the Books celebration into a no-contact drive-in.

This year, the pandemic has once again forced organizers to get creative.

“We partnered with the health department this year to try to plan an event that was really safe for the community,” said Elizabeth Anderson, the Partnership’s program director, “and what we came up with was this drive-thru, which we’re seeing a lot of, so that parents and families can still come and see the arts performances.”

The Partnership will host the free drive-thru Day of the Books celebration on Saturday, May 1, from 10 a.m. to noon at Bray Park on Alston Bridge Road. The event — created primarily for young children up to 5th grade, plus their families — will offer free books, live arts performances and other take-home goodies.

Begun in 2008, the Partnership’s Day of the Books event is “a celebration of literacy and multiculturalism, bilingualism and the arts,” according to Anderson. It’s modeled after a traditional Latin American holiday, Children’s Day (el Día de los Niños), held annually to honor children and families.

“One of our goals at the Chatham County Partnership for Children is to promote literacy in young children in our county,” she said, “and Day of the Books is one way that we can get books out to kids and families so that they can practice reading together and promote literacy.”

Normally, the festival hosts local artists and performances, organizes interactive activities for children and hands out free bilingual books. Children would participate in arts and crafts, and volunteers would read aloud books to crowds of children and their families in both English and Spanish. They’d also have music and — of course — piñatas.

“So it’s really celebrating bilingualism and encouraging kids to be proud of being able to speak multiple languages,” Anderson said. “ … We have a very diverse community with a growing Hispanic population, and one of the things that we really seek to do through Day of the Books is celebrate that diversity in our community and the multicultural nature of our community.”

And while this year’s celebration won’t quite invoke that same interactive “festival spirit,” she added, it’ll still have many of the event’s traditional hallmarks — including book giveaways and artist performances.

“The artists will be kind of in the center of the circle that the cars are driving around, so they (families) can enjoy the arts performances from our local artists here in Chatham County, but from the safety of their cars,” she said. “ … It’ll be really fun.”

Once families arrive, Chatham Partnership staff and volunteers will sign them in and give tote bags to each child to store the event’s giveaways. Families will then drive on and make short stops at several resource stations manned by community and event partners — including the Chatham Education Foundation, Communities In Schools and the Hispanic Liaison, among others. Participating organizations will offer goodies to children and parents.

“Everyone’s just going to put their own little idea for the children and the families,” Anderson said, adding, “We wanted it to be both a celebration and an opportunity for parents to get access to information and resources that maybe they haven’t necessarily had access to during the pandemic, because a lot of our organizations have been more closed off to the public.”

Thanks to funding from the Chatham Arts Council and the North Carolina Arts Council, the celebration will host five local artists. Cross-cultural percussionist Beverly Botsford will play the drums, Katja Noelani Wise will perform hula hoop tricks and Katie Rebich will be the event’s stilt walker.

“Of course, these are all going to just be performances; normally, children would be able to interact with the artists,” said Maricela Morales Torres, the Partnership’s Family Outreach Coordinator. “If it was the drums, she (Botsford) would be able to do, like, a session for them. These are all just performances this time.”

Visual artist JR Butler will also be there live painting to and with the event’s music “to demonstrate the interconnectedness of those things,” according to Anderson. Takiri Folclor Latino dancers will perform traditional Latin dances.

All performances and giveaways will follow an “animal masquerade” theme, Torres said, based on a children’s book of the same name.

“It’s where animals create their own masks of different animals, so a cow would be a chicken,” she said. “It’s just a silly children’s book, but our theme is animal masquerade, and so the artists will also kind of be going along that theme.”

Per the theme, families will also receive kits to make their own animal masks at home, among other arts and crafts activities.

At the end, each child will receive a brand new bilingual and age-appropriate book. Organizers will also provide picnic lunches from Angelina’s Kitchen in partnership with Chatham County Schools. According to Anderson, the Partnership ordered about 200 new bilingual books for the celebration, and they will be handing out an additional 50 gently used bilingual books.

The Chatham Education Foundation will also be there handing out another 300 gently used bilingual books.

“So every child will get one new book, and then there will be lots and lots of more books that they can take away,” Anderson said. “We have some for kids of all ages from babies and infants and toddlers all the way up through elementary school.”

Even though the Partnership can’t host an in-person event this year as they’d hoped, Anderson and Torres said they still hope to see a big crowd. They’ve prepared for about 150 children.

“We were hoping that this year it would be able to be back in-person, but actually since we started planning the drive-thru, I’ve gotten kind of excited about it,” Anderson said. “I think there’s gonna be some fun opportunities, and a lot of our community in Chatham is turning out for this.”

Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at victoria@chathamnr.com.

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