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Innisfail celebrates heritage at Family Literacy Festival (7 photos)

Fifth edition of festival returns to Innisfail for first time since 2020

INNISFAIL – With winter’s wrath returning the day before there was a bit of uneasiness leading up to the start of the Family Literacy Festival at the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre.

Mayor Jean Barclay was scheduled to open the four-hour festival on Jan. 28 by reading stories to children at 11 a.m.

As the clock inched closer to 11 a.m. there were no children, and there was consideration to move Storytime later.

But suddenly the children came; two, three and another two. Storytime was on, maybe a few minutes late but kids excitedly gathered around on the floor and listened intently to the mayor’s take on Doreen Cronin’s Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type.

“I was kind of worried that people wouldn't show up based on the weather and I'm very grateful some town councillors were willing to stand outside in this and barbecue for the crowd that came,” said Tara Downs, manager of the Innisfail Public Library. “The mayor was amazing. She read a book on different cultural events.

“And she read one that kind of tied into one of the activity stations from the Innisfail historical village,” added Downs. “It’s was about the cows typing on an old-fashioned typewriter, and they brought one of those in, so it really tied in well with what is going on here today.”

The free Family Literacy Festival has been hosted since 2017. The festival marked its fourth annual event in 2020; two months before the COVID-19 pandemic struck and forced event cancellations in 2021 and 2022.

The meticulously planned return of the festival, which was presented under a ‘Celebrate your Heritage’ theme, featured a wide array of activities, along with prize draws and a performance by Juno Award-nominee Mary Lambert.

By noon hour the centre’s lobby was buzzing with excitement as attendees browsed and interacted at the 10 activity stations, which included creative names like 3D Flyin’ Flag Necklace, Food Around the World, Kapla Block World Building, People Pennants and Tinker Shack.

Mostly though, there was plenty of fun to trigger community spirit.

Town councillors Gavin Bates, Janice Wing and Cindy Messaros added to that spirit by volunteering to take care of the barbecue and treats. Free hotdogs and juice were handed out to excited kids and parents.

Innisfailian Alicia Fox dressed up as Belle, the heroine from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast who resisted the town’s rejection of her love for reading.

“And since Belle loves to read, I thought it was an appropriate costume,” said Fox, who brought her three children to the festival. “I think literacy is the key that unlocks the rest of your life. You really can't move forward without a really solid understanding of literacy in general, whether that's speaking, reading or writing. It runs the whole gamut.”

There was also a separate Tech Room for kids and parents to explore the marvels of technology and its contribution on how heritage can be embraced in modern times.

Attendees had a chance to try a Scratch program that teaches children how to create computer code and what can be done with it, like creating video games.

They could also learn robotics through AI/Arduino, and then put their imaginations to the test by creating wonders through 3D printing.

“When people think literacy, they think literally reading but really in the broader perspective I think literacy is more about being able to use the information that's around you,” said Ryan Sunderland, a library board member who was the facilitator of the Tech Room. “As our world becomes more technological you need to be able to be literate with many kinds of technology.”

With all that was offered at the festival - past, present and future - there was sheer wonder as kids scampered continuously from station to station and to the Tech Room in an atmosphere of sheer joy.

They were met with appreciative and approving smiles from library staff and board members, including new board chair Pauline Wigg.

“It's a beautiful day. There’s lots of activities,” said Wigg during the festival’s first hour. “The library has done such a great job of putting this together. Hot dogs are up pretty soon, Mary Lambert's coming soon. It’s just fantastic.”


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