Riley Festival hosts book drive for county youngsters

GREENFIELD — To honor the Hoosier Poet and celebrate Indiana’s bicentennial, Riley Festival organizers plan to use this year’s four-day event as a book drive to promote literacy among the county’s youngest readers.

As part of its designation as a bicentennial festival by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, the Riley Festival had the option to create a Legacy Project, an endeavor meant to highlight the best of Indiana’s history as Hoosiers statewide celebrate the state’s 200th birthday. The Riley Festival board chose to promote literacy and honor the poems and stories of James Whitcomb Riley by seeking donations of storybooks for every kindergarten and first-grade student in Hancock County, said Nancy Alldredge, secretary of the Riley Festival Board.

The festival board will ask its vendors, competition entrants and festival-goers to bring a new book to donate at the festival, which runs Oct. 6 to 9 this year, said Linda Lowe, Riley Festival office administrator.

“We started thinking about what James Whitcomb Riley was like,” Lowe said. “He loved children; literature was near and dear to his heart. What better way to honor him than to give storybooks to children?”

The festival board seeks to donate at least one book to every kindergartner and first-grader in Hancock County, not only in the four public school districts but parochial schools as well, Lowe said.

Festival board members first contacted school officials last year to gauge just how many books might be needed to complete this project, Lowe said. With classes back in session, the board members will soon contact school officials for a final head count of kindergarten and first-grade students.

At the festival, board members will provide collection points and also travel around the festival with wagons to collect donated books, Alldredge said.

Those who are interested in donating before the festival begins may bring new books to the Riley Festival office, 312 E. Main St., Suite C, Greenfield, Alldredge said.

After the festival’s end, board members will affix a bicentennial sticker to the inside cover of the book, so students will know their book was part of the state’s 200th birthday celebration, Lowe said.

Though festival board members have some suggestions for the donated books, including anything by Dr. Seuss, “Good Night Moon” or “Where the Wild Things Are,” any book appropriate for children 5 or 6 years old will be accepted.

At a glance

This year’s Riley Festival, Oct. 6-9, will feature a book drive for Hancock County children. Visitors to the festival may drop off books (for children ages 5 and 6) at various collection points in downtown Greenfield.

Those who are interested in donating before the festival begins may bring new books to the Riley Festival office, 312 E. Main St., Suite C, Greenfield.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or