Book Fair on Saturday

(Photo by David Gordon)

(Photo by David Gordon)

Hundreds and hundreds of hardcover and softcover books, DVDs, CDs and records will be on sale in Kiwanis Ice Arena in Saugerties on Saturday, June 8 during the 16th annual Saugerties Public Library Book Fair sponsored by the Friends of the Saugerties Public Library.

This year’s event will feature a lot more than just used books, movies and music. Fourth, fifth and sixth graders from Bennett Elementary School in Boiceville will fill the arena with sounds of jazz tunes, while Kevin McLaren and his band will play some more contemporary music.

Marilyn Walker, an award-winning local poet, will lead a poetry reading, and Adams Fairacre Farms will host flower arrangement demonstrations.

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Children will be able to enjoy activities like face painting, a bike safety demo sponsored by Diaz Ambulance and a demonstration from Lykes Martial Arts. Children will also have a chance to meet Michael Rex, a local author known for the Fangbone series, and local children’s author Kat Michaels.

Book fair publicist Isabelle DeCelle is very excited about this year’s event. “The book fair is getting bigger every year,” DeCelle said. “People like the flower arranging from Adams Fairacre Farms. There are continuous raffles for theme baskets with all things pertaining to coffee, women’s cosmetics and other items.”

One vendor has 31 bags, DeCelle added.

A passion for seeing the library succeed is what drives members of the Friends of the Saugerties Public Library to work so hard to put the event on every year.

“The Friends raise money to help subsidize the library budget,” said Barbara Kaisik, library fair co-chair. “When there’s something they need that can’t fit into their budget they can contact the Friends.”

“We do fundraising throughout the year,” Kaisik said. “This is our biggest and most community-friendly event. The community really likes the library fair.”

Softcover books are 50 cents and hardcover are $1.

“It’s very inexpensive,” she said. “These are all secondhand donated books.”

Kaisik says the newest books, mysteries, cookbooks, and novels move the fastest.

Toward the end of the day, people can fill a bag with as many books as possible for only $2, she added.

The book fair brings people of all ages out.

“If the weather is good, it’s a real success,” Kaisik said. “Right now we have HITS, and the games at Cantine Field going on. Even weekenders come in.”

Vendors range from a local pickle vendor named the Brine Barrel to a vendor selling homemade bags, to a vendor with a table of t-shirts, sports and outdoor equipment like fishing supplies and camouflage clothing.

All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Saugerties Public Library.

During the 16 years the Saugerties Public Library Fair has been held, the way people read and buy books has changed a lot. First came the rise of Amazon, where readers could find cheap used copies of just about any book ever printed. Then came the widespread popularity of e-readers and tablets. The popularity of hardcopy media like books, DVDs and CDs has declined.

Despite these challenges and an uncertain future for hardcopy media, the Saugerties Public Library Fair has thrived and grown to become a beloved Saugerties tradition.

Saugerties resident and longtime Friends of the Saugerties Public Library member, Joe Gavner, helped to start the book fair 16 years ago and he remains very active in putting it on.

Gavner has held many posts in the group over the years, including six years as treasurer and six years as president. He says the original mission of the Friends of the Saugerties Public Library was to get the library upgraded, which has since happened.

“For 11 of the 16 years, the fair ran in the large pavilion at Cantine Field,” Gavner said. “We had problems with weather. It was kind of hard. When Kiwanis created the ice arena, we got on the agenda so we can have our fair at the Arena.”

Gavner is not afraid that the e-book revolution will bring an end to the fair or the need for a high quality library. “We would have never expanded the library if we thought it was going to go out of business,” he said. “People still like to have books. They like to page back and forth. It’s tough to page back and forth on the Internet.”

“We always thought hardcopy was the way,” he added.

An event like this isn’t just about raising money.

“We have made it more of a community event than a money-making event,” he said.

“We’re trying to get these books back to the community. We have people who’ve come in for years. We have people who give boxes of books and come back to buy more boxes of books.”

Gavner likes to see the across-the-board participation from the community, ranging from Key Club members to daughters and granddaughters. “The community has been super helpful,” Gavner added.

He especially thanked local churches and organizations like the Lutheran Church, the Knights of Columbus and Saint Mary of the Snow Church, for providing 30 out of the 50 tables the Friends needed to put on the event.

Gavner has stayed with the group for so many years because the library has always been a large part of his life. He’s used the library ever since he moved to Saugerties when he started with IBM in 1960. He kept working with IBM until it moved out of the area in the mid 1990s.

“I had five kids of my own, and my wife is a teacher,” he said. “Saugerties adopted me and I raised my kids here and the library has always been part of it.”

“If you can read, you can do anything,” Gavner added.

Current Saugerties Friends of the Public Library president Peg Wilsey has been involved with the library for many years, including stints as Library Board president and board member. She joined the group out of shear love for the library.

She strongly believes the live music provides an enhanced atmosphere at the event. “It makes people smile,” she said. “It adds a wonderful dimension to the book fair. It makes it more of a party.”

Harvey Boyer, director of the Bennett Elementary Jazz Ensemble, is honored to have the opportunity to be part of this event. Boyer has been leading the ensemble from when it was originally housed at the former Woodstock Elementary School.

“We’ve been playing at the Saugerties Public Library Book Fair for 10 years,” Boyer said. “We do a little bit of everything. We perform old standards like John Coltrane’s ‘Blue Train,’ blues, contemporary pieces and original student compositions.”

Boyer is proud about the ensemble’s recent performance in the NYSSMA Majors Festival at Kingston High School where they received a Gold with Distinction rating, the highest possible ranking for this festival.

They’ll play at 11 a.m.

Even the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office pitches in, with an outside-of-jail work program, DeCelle said.

“The Sheriff usually brings four or five guys that help us stack the books and do the heavy lifting,” DeCelle said. “They’re wonderful.”

The library appreciates it.

“We love our Friends group,” assistant library director Tiffany Lydecker said. “They are big supporters of our library and the fundraisers are great.”

“I think the community looks forward to this book fair every year,” she added.

The Saugerties Public Library Book Fair is Saturday, June 8 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Kiwanis Ice Arena. Admission is $1 for adults and free for children.

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