‘We Are Not The Met’ gala shines spotlight on Farmville nonprofit

Published 3:47 am Friday, February 10, 2023

FARMVILLE – One of the biggest challenges for the Virginia Children’s Book Festival (VCBF) isn’t finding volunteers. It’s not fundraising, even though that can be difficult on its own. The challenge is getting adults in Prince Edward County and the surrounding community to understand what the festival is and how it helps local children. 

“Adults in our community don’t really know what it is, because the people who come are children and educators,” said VCBF Executive Director Juanita Giles. “It can be difficult for people to understand what it is we do.” 

That’s one problem the group hopes to address next month, by reminding them of what it’s like to be a child. That’s part of the plan behind the “We Are Not The Met” gala. 

Email newsletter signup

“The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another, his mother called him (a) Wild Thing” says the book’s first line. Most of us grew up hearing Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s story, the tale of how Max runs away from home (in his dreams), to a land of wild beasts where they crown him their king. 

Now residents will have a chance to experience some of the book firsthand. That’s the goal for this year’s gala. 

“We want to take adults back into the world of one of their favorite books when they were kids,” Giles said. “We’re trying with our creative team to sort of re-create Max’s world from “Where The Wild Things Are.” We’re trying to get a boat to take you from one to the other.” 

The goal, Giles said, is to really recreate that whole environment. When people walk in, the group wants them to feel like they’re in Max’s bedroom.

“And (hopefully) they remember what it’s like to be a kid and have everything be that magical,” Giles added. 

What the festival is and what they need

Every year, the Virginia Children’s Book Festival budget hovers around $200,000. That’s what the group needs to raise in order to keep it free. And when we mean free, there’s a number of projects that covers. First, there’s the festival itself. Held in October each year, the three-day event draws students and teachers to Longwood University by the thousands.

It’s supposed to be “the best field trip anyone has ever gone on”, festival officials say. That means it’s not like other book festivals. Many other festivals revolve around selling books and having an author come and do a reading. The VCBF provides an immersive and interactive experience to get students interested in reading.

Why no readings? Because book readings and signings aren’t going to grab a child’s attention, festival officials say. To do that, they need to be curious, to be drawn in. Part of that comes from the opportunity to talk with their favorite authors. Another part comes through a lot of interactive activities. 

Ashley Crute arrived in Farmville back in 2016. That same year, she got involved with the festival and has been a volunteer ever since. Now she’s working to help fund it as gala co-chair. 

“The VCBF is unique,” Crute said. “There is no other book festival that focuses solely on the kids. We like to be unique. This year, bringing in the book ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ I have already heard people talking about creating wild beast costumes. Some told me they read this book to their children, they miss this book and can’t wait to see this theme come to life.” 

Crute said she could promise people that Max’s bedroom will be on site, along with some scenes from the kingdom of the Wild Things. 

“This was Juanita and the board (of directors),” Crute said, when asked who came up with the theme. She said the group continues to shift and develop ideas. 

More about the ‘We Are Not The Met’ gala

Now if you want to go to the gala, the clock is ticking. The ‘We Are Not The Met’ gala takes place on Saturday, March 11, in Longwood University’s Radcliff Hall. That’s located at 310 Buffalo Street in Farmville. Beginning at 6 p.m., tickets are $100 each and just come with one requirement. You need to come dressed up in the most wild costume you can find. 

One thing to remember, however. Tickets won’t last forever. The group has a set amount of 250 to be distributed. Once that’s done, both Juanita and Ashley say, that’s it. For more information about ‘We Are Not The Met’, you can visit the group’s website or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/vachildrensbookfestival.