Something Has To Be Done About This
by Michael Sedano
I have watched in recent years the diminishing promise of the Los Angeles Latino Book and Family Festival. The September 10 seventeenth iteration of the LBFF brought dozens of people to Olvera Street and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. No one can be happy at this sparse attendance for the invariably worthwhile event.
Attendance has been dramatically greater; 22,000 in 2012. Then, the event featured county fair ambience, a warren of tents shading displays by bookstores, individual authors, vendors of ethnic merchandise and art. Accomplished entertainers took the stage. In the meeting rooms, gente could choose from a rich schedule of panels where writers read and signed their books. Public performance from the stage, microphone and everything, should be a writer’s best reward.
What happened? A hundred empty white folding chairs sat in the open sun as poets read to the empty house and people in the display area looked across at the spectacle of sweating artists shouting into empty air. Exhibitors with goods to sell and messages to share passed downtime talking to themselves in absence of a public.
Festive it was, LBFF. It’s impossible that a raza culture fest wouldn’t be lively and happy, even when exhibiters vastly outnumber visitors. A few years back, I ramrodded large trade shows where I learned the only way to make an impact is to talk to people. Mostly that was happening in the grassy forecourt and the entry court where I staffed a writer’s spot during a dash to a taco stand in near-by Olvera Street.
This year’s site at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes has the advantage of nearby Union Station and its connectedness with regional history. Getting there via train makes sense. Most parking at Olvera Street runs $9.00 a day, or five with a healthy walk. Metrorail service runs Sr. Citizens $0.35. Other riders pay $1.75, plus a dollar for a Tap card for first-time riders. An abandoned burial ground separates the museum’s 19th century brick construction from the stucco smooth white walls of La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, or Our Lady, Queen of the Angels. Just say El Lay.
Several corporate sponsors greet arriving guests. I welcomed the canned agua con gas company’s large crew who greeted me with a chilled can of lime flavored fizzy water. I would have paid for that water I was so thirsty. Savoring the water gave me time to stroll the LA Times and Curaçao department store booths. That La Croix flavored water hit the spot. Free samples and dollar off coupon will produce a sale, a definite maybe. The worker from Curaçao wants me to open a credit card so I can buy stuff from their mailers and newspaper inserts.
Two LA Times guys cover their table with a grid of sports logo baseball caps. I slow to gaze at the fifty caps. This draws both salesmen. It’s a moment of truth for them: They have 3 out of four chances of turning my interest into a sale for one of them. Does the prospect buy weekly, only Sunday, neither, or already subscribes 7 days a week?
When the one questioning me understands I’m already fully subscribed, I lose my eligibility to choose a cap by giving him an order, or getting onto the emailing list.
Dejected, the salesman mumbles with desultory frustration and a flash of satisfaction telling me “then you can’t get a hat.” I feel for him, it’s early and already he’s had some puro rejection. He’s pissed, too, at how the game played out. “Sunday,” I answered, then he offered how about Monday through Friday? I already subscribe to the full package. He’d thrown everything he could offer and the answer was a definite “No.” A slow start means a slow day.
For exhibitors and authors both, it’s going to be a long day.
Inside the building, workshops and panels offer stimulating literary readings and discussion panels. The events are free, and a raffle at the end wins a free book signed by the author. Read Rest of Article Here