When I learned about the Burning River Fest in Cleveland, I thought it would be a great place to introduce my new novel, Canoedling in Cleveland – a ready-made book release party with lots of bands, food, crowds, etc. It exceeded my expectations and was an enjoyable event that I would happily return to even if I were not a vendor.
What’s it all about? “Since 2001, folks from all over the Great Lakes region have come together to remember the 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River and celebrate the renewed sense of eco-consciousness the infamous fire sparked. [It is] intended to raise awareness of environmental issues affecting the Great Lakes region and Cuyahoga River ecosystem.”
- Over 25 bands and musicians on three stages – funk, blues, rock, and more.
- Environmental educational displays for all ages.
- Food and chef demonstrations, plus handcrafted beer by Great Lakes Brewing Company.
- Performance artists from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Parade the Circle
- A Corporate Boat Float featuring boats made from post-consumer recyclable materials.
- The most spectacular night time views of Cleveland from a wonderful greenspace right in the heart of Cleveland’s industry.
- A ceremonial lighting of floating pyres intended to commemorate the efforts to clean up our waterways since the burning of the Cuyahoga.
(excerpted from http://www.burningriverfoundation.org/sitemaps/view/about_festival)
Burning River seemed like the perfect venue because Canoedling in Cleveland takes place in Cleveland in 1960, and the characters canoe on the poisoned, oil-slicked Cuyahoga River, a waterway entirely devoid of birds and fish, and on Lake Erie, in which swimming is not permitted – all the beaches are closed. They lament the polluted waters and blame the A-people (the adults in their lives).
The book in part is dedicated to “the heroes who brought back fish, ducks, and eagles to the Cuyahoga River and people to the beaches of Lake Erie and who created Cuyahoga Valley National Park.” Of course, after the Cuyahoga infamously burned in 1969, the river became the “poster child” for the Clean Water Act.
What a beautiful setting for a festival! And it changed from daytime to nighttime . . . and from Friday to Saturday. From where I was sitting I could view seven of the bridges crossing the Cuyahoga that appear on the hand-sketched map in the book.
Canoedling in Cleveland is the story of Jeff Klossen’s quest to canoe all the waterways around Cleveland during the summer before his senior year in high school. His older brother bets him a hundred bucks that he can’t do it. Jeff has no canoe and no car to carry it on. So he canoodles Randy Clark, a high school acquaintance who has both, into participating in the adventure. The two persuade Lori Matthews to be their driver, to drop them off at the beginning of a trip and pick them up at the end.
Before long, however, Lori demands to do her share of the paddling, and eventually becomes the brains of the operation. As the boys begin to appreciate Lori for her skills and intelligence, a rivalry for her attention develops between them.
After a canoeing accident on Lake Erie, African-American Walter Madison rescues Jeff, who then tries to build a friendship with Walter across the racial divide that adults (the A-people) have created.
Although written as a young adult novel, the initial reviews are written by adults who call it “a great summer read.” Additionally, included in the book are six stand-alone, tall tale canoe stories, which Jeff tells his little brothers while babysitting, such as encountering worm-lions on the Vermilion River.
At Burning River Fest, it was great fun to have people come bouncing up to my booth to ask what canoedling means, or to describe their own latest adventure in a canoe or kayak, or to say that the book should be sold at Cleveland Metroparks or introduced into schools to acquaint students with the history of fifty-five years ago.
The bands were wonderful, varied, and everywhere! The exhibits inside the Coast Guard station were educational for both children and adults. The circulating actors, dancers and puppeteers were imaginative and enticed people to take pictures and dance along with them.
The many recycling/composting/landfill areas were staffed with individuals who were teaching how to reduce waste while at the same time guiding individuals in where to place specific discards. The food and beer were great, and there were many interesting vendors. And I loved the beauty of nature combined with the man-made beauty of the city.
The best thing was to have a great big book release party that I didn’t have to plan!
For more pictures, see http://www.cleveland.com/kristel/index.ssf/2014/07/burning_river_fest_preview_ins.html