Editor's Note: Corrections were made to this story following initial publication.
Social distancing has posed a unique challenge to the 17th annual Orange County Children’s Book Festival. Rather than postponing the event, the festival will take to the internet. Book lovers will be able to experience the revelry of the festival starting today through Sept. 26, through the festival’s YouTube channel. The 12-day event, produced in association with Orange Coast College, will feature over 65 videos, uploaded in intervals of five videos daily at 8 a.m., Monday through Friday, with two special weekend events.
“We wanted to do something with the kids where it wouldn’t feel like they were back in school,” said Pat Burns, festival co-founder. “Children go to YouTube for entertainment.”
The festival is set to take place in three parts. The first part is called Story and Activity Time, which will largely consist of the lighter activities often associated with the festivals. These activities include step-by-step tutorials led by studio illustrators, as well as a large selection of videos in which authors read from and discuss their work. The second part of the festival, the Blue Ribbon Panels, will be available Sept. 19, and will consist of two major segments. The “Good Grief” segment is a panel tailored to help children cope with feelings surrounding social distancing, and will feature authors whose work addresses issues of depression, separation, and anxiety. The second segment, “Be the Change,” will delve into issues of social justice, approaching racial difference in positive ways, government direction toward equality, and storytelling that brings awareness and action. The last of the festival’s three parts, called “Red Carpet Time,” will take place Sept. 26, and feature panels by accomplished movie and TV celebrities, such as actress Kristen Bell, author Benjamin Hart and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” author Jeff Kinney, among others.
Coordinating this event with so many participants required a tremendous amount of planning and dedication from the people behind the scenes.
Burns said that making contact with celebrity presenters in some cases took as long as six months, or involved messages being passed through as many as seventeen different parties before reaching the desired recipient. Because of these efforts, however, the virtual festival has been able to capitalize on benefits that would not have been possible with an in-person event.
“We’ve been able to get people from all over the world. Now we are not just an Orange County event, we are global,” Burns said.
Although there are some aspects of an in-person event that cannot be replicated virtually, the enthusiasm with which the conversion has been received, and the turn-out of presenters, has raised the question as to whether the festival will retain some of its virtual elements permanently. According to Burns, it could be a distinct possibility.
For more information on the virtual OC Children’s Book Festival, visit the festival's website.