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Home Arts & Culture Young students fill Concordia’s campus for annual Plum Creek Literacy Festival

Photo description: Students enjoying the Plum Creek Literacy Festival

Photo credit: From CUNE plum creek literacy festival children’s day website

Hope Nelson

Sower Staff


More than 2,000 people participated in games, author talks and interactive workshops as part of Concordia’s annual Plum Creek Literacy Festival on Friday.

Students came from a variety of educational backgrounds, including public and parochial schools, as well as many homeschool environments.

“I am amazed at how an event focused around books and their creators brings together so many people of different backgrounds,” said Dr. Dylan Teut, Plum Creek Literacy Festival director.

One part of the festival was a book sale in the upper level of the Janzow Campus Center. The sale featured books by the 18 authors present at the event, as well as books from past festivals sold at a discounted price.

Throughout the day, elementary and middle school children from all over the state had the opportunity to watch presentations by these authors in a variety of locations across campus, such as the Thom Leadership and Education Center lecture hall and the Dunklau CoLab center.

On the quad in the middle of campus, a variety of volunteers ran games and activities. Naomi and Mackenna, seventh and eighth graders respectively from St. John Lutheran School in Seward volunteered at the face-painting booth.

“It’s so much fun! We do lots of tigers for the boys. And mustaches,” Naomi said. “And those Taylor Swift hearts around the eyes for the girls.” She was one of the wearers of this heart style.

“I’ve been here before, and it’s really fun,” Mackenna said.

Adult volunteers ran the book sale and informational booths and helped out at author talks.

“It’s a fun event to volunteer at!” said JoEllen Axthelm, an adult volunteer stationed at a table outside the Thom auditorium filled with books written by some of the event’s authors.

Michael Garland, a New York native, was a first-time event attendee and author of the award-winning book “Grandpa’s Tractor.”

“[The attendees and volunteers] seem very well prepared…this is a well-put-together event,” said Garland. He said that despite growing up in the Manhattan area, he felt connected to the nearby farming communities and wanted to write a children’s book about farming.

“It’s relevant here,” he said, referring to his book, which won a Nebraska award for agricultural-related writing. It also has a sequel, “Grandma’s Farm,” which Garland wrote after the success of “Grandpa’s Tractor.”

Though the festival’s daytime events ended with the children’s school day, the fun continued. On Friday night Concordia’s new Borland Center for Music and Theatre hosted a stage adaptation of “Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief” by Wendelin van Draalen, one of the authors who attended the festival.

This Plum Creek Literacy Festival children’s show took place in Borland’s Black Box Theatre, directed by Concordia junior Elizabeth Ascher.

Ascher said that “the actors did well, staying enthusiastic and energized,” despite performing the show five other times throughout the day.

“The kids seemed to enjoy the fun mystery story and an interactive chase scene that took place throughout the audience, “Ascher said. “We were also fortunate that the author could join us for a performance!”

The Plum Creek Literacy Festival continued on Saturday with an adult conference. Additionally, Concordia’s Marxhausen Gallery for Art hosted a special exhibition entitled “Guardian of Childhood: The Art of William Joyce,” which remained in the gallery through Saturday.

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