Fall festival season has begun in Indiana, in which local towns celebrate sunny, parade-filled weekends with gala celebrations like “Sunflower Fest” and “Holler on the Hill Festival” and my personal favorite, “Irish Fest,” for the best brew consumed while watching dancers and sheep herding exhibitions. My family attended “Old Fashion Days”  in neighboring North Salem, Indiana, over Labor Day weekend, and we were treated to both hand-dipped ice cream and pork tenderloin sandwiches washed down with Lemon Shake Ups, as well as Main Street Bed Races and a tractor parade.  Driving back home, stomach full and thumbing through my just purchased spiral-bound church cookbook (I’m a sucker for recipes with Jello and sour cream), I thought about the fall fests that occur in the aisles of our stores this season, as likeminded folk gather to browse and (sometimes) buy books. I’m sure your stores all host the following, too:

TODDLER DAYS (or DAZE): featuring the Heaviest Diaper Bag contest and the Sippy Cup Juggling Demonstration for young parents, the Most Creative Outfit competition for those attendees under age three who selected their own clothes today (bonus points for matching shoes, or shoe choices that reflect the outside temperature), and the Sticky Hands Shelf Climb. Our finale, as always, will be the Temper Tantrum Outburst (similar to fireworks, but louder) performed at both nap time and dusk.

BIRTHDAY PARTY PALOOZA: This shorter community festival occurs only on Saturdays and Sundays, commencing about an hour before popular birthday party times (9 – 10:00 am, 12:00 – 1 pm, 4 – 5 pm). The single event is the Gift Race, in which the parent competitors enter the store with two to three children in tow, at least two parties commencing in 15 minutes, one credit card, several indecisive children who are totally distracted by displays in the shop, and a terse text message from their spouse to “pick something, get it wrapped, and get them there!” Veteran festival goers can be spotted with their credit card arms outstretched as they enter the store, heading straight for the checkout, yelling ages and genders of that day’s gift recipients. Crowds gather near the popular gift wrapping station, as professional tape and ribbon demonstrations are ongoing throughout the day.

THE GIFTED GATHERING: An ongoing small community festival held in the middle grade section of every book store, where parents and grandparents compete in the Scavenger Hunt to identify appropriate books for their “very, very bright 8 year old who reads at the 9th or 10th grade level” but “isn’t ready for anything inappropriate.” Prizes awarded for those adults who 1) don’t mention at what age their child read HP and 2) skip asking for the lexile level of every title offered. This event is open to both children and adults, but younger attendees are usually sidelined during the actual book selection process; however, they often compete in the Eye-Rolling Competition.

NANNY BASH: A weekly gathering and cell phone meet-up for those employed nannies with one or two young charges, held around the train table at the front of the store, typically on days when the local library is not hosting a story time or the weather is not park appropriate. Events include the ever popular Bathroom Badgering (“Do you need to go?” “Are you sure?” “You said you needed to go a minute ago!”), the Employer Story Contest, in which contestants compete to relate the most irritating/picky/frustrating requirement of their boss, and the Yoga Pant Fashion Show. It is worth noting that no actual money changes hands during the course of this event, making it a true community celebration for the attendees.

READER INDEPENDENCE DAYS: This frequently celebrated weekday festival, usually held after school dismissal, hosted between the shelves of graphic novels and middle grade fiction sections in both children’s and general stores. The main event, of course, is the heavily attended NOT A REAL BOOK  mock debate, in which hapless parents offer to purchase a book, any book, that is not a graphic novel, while a team of young readers and their bookseller coaches explain the value, level of reading difficulty, and highly entertaining format of graphic materials. While each gathering of this event has similar outcomes, it shows no signs of waning in popularity.

PACKING LIST JAMBOREE: This highly popular, after hours event caters to booksellers and receiving staff, as they compete to match the day’s shipments with packing slips, race to find actual invoices in various email accounts, and participate in the highly competitive STACK BY ON SALE DATE obstacle course. Highly skilled competitors offer demonstrations of NEW RELEASE CARDBOARD DISPLAY ASSEMBLY, often accompanied by DUCT TAPE RESCUE demonstrations.  These events often conclude with the dangerous BUBBLE WRAP FLOOR ROLLING races, and freestyle STYROFOAM PACKING PEANUT fights.

As the crisper, cooler weekends of fall approach, and the smell of kettle corn fills the air, I’d love to hear about the fall “festivals” at your store, too!