Events National Book Festival

Edwidge Danticat: The Making of a Novelist

Edwidge Danticat speaks with Marie Arana during a “National Book Festival Presents” event in the Coolidge Auditorium, September 24, 2019. Photo: Shawn Miller.

Edwidge Danticat, the Haitian-born novelist who has become one of America’s most honored authors, told a crowd at the Coolidge Auditorium this week that she first felt the magic of storytelling as a child in Port-au-Prince.

The author of 21 books, Danticat was in conversation on stage with Marie Arana, the literary director of the National Book Festival – who immigrated from Peru to the U.S. as a teen — for the third event in the Library’s new series, “The National Book Festival Presents.” Danticat was discussing her new collection of short stories, “Everything Inside,” when the talk turned to how early her narrative talents were woven into her everyday life.

“My first writing teachers were the storytellers of my childhood,” she said. “They were often people who, in their daily lives, were not celebrated much. They were really hardworking…really poor people. When they’d go into a public place, they’d have to bow their heads. But when they were in that space — when they were telling a story — they were laughing. They were free.”

That era – the early 1970s – was a difficult time, both for Danticat and her native land. The brutal dictatorship of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier ruled by terror. Danticat’s father fled to the U.S. when she was two and her mother followed two years later. She and her brother stayed behind with an aunt and uncle. The couple took in other children whose parents had left the country as well. The money their parents sent home allowed the cadre of children to attend good schools, but it also left them in the care of stern, church-going adults who did not have time for silliness.

Danticat — a quiet child who preferred observation to conversation – noticed that adults usually spoke to children in a firm, instructive voices, filled with directives. But when the talk shifted to stories, the mood lifted as well.

“People were happy, it was lively, and there was singing, there was songs in the stories, there was suspense, there was really a connection with young people, and I was bewildered by it,” she said. “What was the thing that was transforming the mood of these usually stern women in my life?”

Danticat’s first novel, “Breath, Eyes, Memory,” published shortly after she graduated from Barnard College, relived part of that life, turning on the relationships of women in difficult circumstances in Haiti. Oprah Winfrey picked it for her book club in 1998, marking Danticat’s career in bright letters. Her books and short stories since then have hewed to themes of Haitian history, family relationships – particularly among women – and the experiences of immigrants. Her memoir, “Brother, I’m Dying,” won the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. She was awarded a MacArthur Grant the following year, and, in 2018, was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. In making the award, the Neustadt committee assessed her work as both political and personal, writing that “Danticat addresses how the specter of history haunts the unresolved present and undermines the future; how nationalism and national identity can be sources of both pride and corruption; and how parent-child bonds, no matter how damaged, can be redemptive.

Danticat signs books for fans after the event. Photo: Shawn Miller.

At the Coolidge, she said that history had always drawn her into its web of unfolding events.

“I was always interested in the lacunae of history, in the gaps of history that people don’t talk about,” she said. “Fiction is great for that, because you can invent a person and put them in that gap.”

Recognizing that interest, Suzanne Schadl, chief of the Library’s Hispanic Division, came on stage to present Danticat with a print from “Las Antillas Letrades,” a 2014 work by Puerto Rican graphic artist Antonio Martorell. The print features one of Danticat’s inspirations, fellow Haitian novelist Marie Vieux-Chauvet. Her most famous book, “Love, Anger and Madness,” is composed of three novellas that present a take on a thinly disguised Duvalier regime. She had to flee the country for her safety, and the book was out of print for decades. Danticat wrote the introduction to the English translation, published in 2010 by Modern Library.

She had, after all, her own experiences with living abroad. In the early 1980s, when she was reunited with her parents in New York, she was 12. Her father wasted no time in taking her to the Brooklyn Library. She was amazed that the library let her take books home, but slightly disappointed that she could “only borrow 10 at a time.”

“Libraries felt like church to me,” she said. “It felt like a religious experience.”

Though she was in the United States, the family remained deeply involved in Haiti, with her parents repeatedly telling the children that, although they had left home, home had not left them. This balancing of cultures led to a sense of being in two nations at once, a sense heightened after she became fluent in English. Her parents relied on her to accompany them on doctor’s office visits, where she would have to translate the most personal of conversations. At home, adults would often ask her to write letters for them, including love letters, which led to more insight into the strange world of adults.

“For a writer, what’s better than being allowed into intimate spaces in people’s lives? Afterward, they would act like it didn’t happen, and I would go back to being a small child.”

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Source: LoC Blogs
Edwidge Danticat: The Making of a Novelist


Digital Roundtable Conference: June 6, 7.

This is a guest post written by Kate Zwaard, Director of Digital Strategy.

A professor from California, an entrepreneur from Boston, an author from New York, and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire all walk into a library…

Sounds like the start of a joke, right?  Instead, it’s some exciting news I have to share: all four are thought leaders in technology and digital innovation, and they are joining a dozen of their peers for the inaugural meeting of the Library of Congress Digital Strategy Roundtable on June 6 and 7, 2019.

The DSR, launched at the direction of the Librarian of Congress, will solicit expert perspectives on the digital transformation of the Library and help ensure that the Library’s plans are meeting industry standards. To do that, we have invited a group of thought leaders from libraries, academia, industry, media, and non-profits to help the Library.

We’re bringing in people like Wendy HallMaria ThomasJoichi Ito, and Paul Ford. They’ll work with the staff members who are leading our digital transformation.

The Library’s Digital Strategy, released in the fall of 2018, includes investing in new technologies to expand online access (for our users) and supporting an innovative culture (for our staff). We want our people to respond quickly to emerging technology and opportunities.

Of course, our plans will change over time to reflect contemporary best practices, so we’ll meet in person at least once per year and more often online. It’s one of the many ways the Library is engaging with the work of other institutions across industries and subject areas.

During the meeting, my team, including LC Labs, will discuss our ideas for the next three years. The Digital Strategy Working Group — a cross-Library team that helped draft the Digital Strategy — and other Library leaders will share digital initiatives. The DSR will also meet Library patrons to discuss their experiences.

In keeping with our goal to make experimentation a core practice in the Library, the Roundtable itself is an experiment. We have chartered the group for a two-year term, during which we’ll evaluate its effectiveness and determine the process for nomination and selection of members.

I am tremendously grateful for the generosity of the people mentioned below for sharing their time and talent with us to make the Library more digitally enabled. And a special thanks to Professor Dame Wendy Hall for co-chairing the meeting with me.


The 2019-2020 Library of Congress Digital Strategy Roundtable Members are:

  • Tony Ageh, Chief Digital Officer, New York Public Library
  • Christine Borgman, Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA and the author of more than 250 publications in communication, information studies, and computer science
  • Meredith Evans, President, Society of American Archivists
  • Paul Ford, CEO and Co-founder, Postlight
  • Joshua Greenberg, Director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Digital IT Program
  • Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science, University of Southampton
  • Hrishikesh Hirway, Creator/Host, Song Exploder
  • Joichi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab
  • Melody Kramer, Director of Communications, Carolina Demography, Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Miriam Posner, Assistant Professor of Information Studies and Digital Humanities, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Mia Ridge, Digital Curator for Western Heritage Collections, British Library
  • Maria Thomas, Former Etsy CEO & NPR Digital SVP; Board of Directors at Pew Research Center
  • Jer Thorp, Artist/Writer
  • Victor Udoewa, Director of Strategy, 18F
  • George Westerman, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management and Faculty Director, Workforce Learning, MIT Jameel World Education Lab
  • Stacie Williams, Director, Center for Digital Scholarship, Regenstein Library, University of Chicago
  • Tim Young, Principal, Deloitte Consulting

Source: LoC Blogs
Digital Roundtable Conference: June 6, 7.

Events Manuscripts

Fresh Life (Online) for the epic Shahnamah

Detail, illustration in the Shahnamah. Printed in India, circa 1600.

“The Shahnamah,” (translated as “The Persian Book of Kings”) is the majestic narrative that recounts the history of pre-Islamic Persia, a staggering work of literature first published about 1,000 years ago. Written by the poet Ferdowsi, it is composed of 62 separate stories set in 50,000 rhyming couplets and divided into 990 chapters. It was 33 years in the making. “Epic” doesn’t begin to cover it.

The book begins with the Persian creation story (Keyumars is the first human) and ends with the Arab invasion of modern-day Iran in the seventh century. It encompasses periods of myth, legend and actual history. It occupies a cultural space something like ‘The Illiad” and “The Odyssey” do in the western tradition, or “Mahabharata” in India — the cornerstone of an entire body of language and literature.

“ ‘The Shahnamah’ became the standard-bearer, the blueprint, for the modern Persian language,” says Hirad Dinavari, reference specialist for the collection in the African and Middle East Division. “The language has changed so little since then that a modern speaker would have little problem reading the 10th century text.”

The Library has three gorgeous manuscript copies of “Shahnamah” – and, as a four-year digitization process of the Rare Persian-Language Manuscript Collection is now wrapping up, you can now see them all online.

One is from modern-day Iran, the second is from Kashmir, and the third is from IndiaThey, along with the rest of the 170-piece collection, will be at the heart of a May 10 conference at the Library devoted to the digitization project. The first panel will discuss ongoing relevance of 1,000 years of Persian literature to researchers, scholars and students in a range of disciplines. The second panel will focus on the work of a multi-disciplinary team of some two dozen people that brought the collection to digital life.

Detail, illustration from the Shahnahmah. Printed in India, circa 1600.

The collection is composed of manuscripts dating back to the 13th century, and come from the range of the near Eastern world — Iran, India, Afghanistan, much of central Asia, and the then-powerful Ottoman Empire. It includes the poetry of Rumi, Saadi and Hafez.

But it’s “The Shahnamah” that remains at collection’s heart. Before the printing press, each manuscript of the epic was penned in a unique style that varied depending on the era, the calligrapher and the region. Only the story and the language remained constant.

“They’re a cultural study that walk you through the aesthetic challenges of the day, and how each place confronted them in their own time,” Dinavari says. “You see the Moghul style of painting in one copy, and, in another, the Ottoman/Turkish style of miniature painting. Plus, they are just stunningly beautiful, even to audiences who don’t know the language. They’re so eye-grabbing that they can engage you on many different levels.”

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Source: LoC Blogs
Fresh Life (Online) for the epic Shahnamah

Education Events

Children’s Book Week: Classic Freebies

Children’s Book Week is 100 years old this year, and there are a lot of cool things to do and see at your favorite national library. Here, let’s check out a handful of insanely popular titles that kids were reading in 1919, when the very first book week was launched. This is particularly fun because all of these are FREE on our website.

A century ago, the population of the U.S. was less than a third of what it is now (106 million), large parts of the country were without electricity, indoor plumbing or even the illumination to read by. Not only did people still look up when they saw an airplane go overhead, virtually no one had seen an airplane go overhead. World War I had ended, but the Roaring Twenties hadn’t started. It would be nearly a decade before movies had sound. It was an era of long silences and quiet nights; when reading words printed on paper was still the dominant means of mass entertainment.


Let’s jump right in with some extraterrestrial adventure that starts in…Virginia. Well, of course. Where else would you start your interplanetary travel?

This is “A Princess of Mars,” the first adventure of John Carter, in which a southern gentleman escapes the depressing aftermath of the Civil War by heading for a gold mine in Arizona and winding up on Mars. It could happen to anyone.  Complications ensue.

Chicago native Edgar Rice Burroughs created Carter in a magazine serial in 1912, the same year he created Carter’s more famous counterpart, John Clayton, aka Tarzan. (Burroughs’ prodigious imagination did not seem to apply in picking names for his heroes.)  “Princess”  was published as a full novel in 1917, was a runaway success, and nine more books followed. If he wasn’t the Lord of the Apes, he was still kind of a big deal.

Burroughs opens the book, writing as himself, in the foreword. He makes the (fictional) claim that he was a boy of five, living in antebellum Virginia, when the dark, handsome Carter showed up at the family homestead, a great friend of his father’s. (It is a jolt when he casually says that his family owned slaves.) Carter is a manly man, a first-rate charmer. But then the war breaks out and nobody sees Uncle Jack for 15 years or so. When he returns, there is something curious about him — he does not appear to have aged.  Carter moves to a beautiful cabin on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River in New York. In 1886, he sends an urgent message to Burroughs, summoning him to come at once. But by the time Burroughs arrives, Carter is dead. The body was found in a snowy field, with no marks of violence, arms outstretched to the heavens.

Burroughs is to surprised to learn that he is to receive all of Carter’s wealth, provided he carry out one spectactularly peculiar final request: He must take Carter’s corpse back to Virginia and place it inside an open coffin in a pre-constructed, ventilated burial chamber. The mausoleum has a gold-plated spring lock that can only be opened … from the inside.

That’s the first few pages. Not bad, not at all. Then you get to go to Mars. And, as our illustration documents, Carter swashbuckles his way across the red planet with a kilt and a really big belt. Love.

Long before Little Orphan Annie was everyone’s favorite 11-year-old red-headed orphan, everybody’s favorite 11-year-old red-headed orphan was the loquacious Canadian, Anne Shirley. She’s better known as “Anne of Green Gables,” she predates her comic counterpart by 16 years, and since Lucy Maud Montgomery’s brought her to fictional life in 1908, more than 50 million readers have gulped down her adventures in some three dozen languages.

There are no monsters or extraterrestrials and not even a princess in this one. It’s 1874, and Green Gables is a quiet little spot in a quiet little corner of Prince Edward Island, just off the coast of  the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In this sleepy stretch of farmland, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an aging brother and sister, tend a farm. They have agreed to adopt a strapping boy from a Nova Scotia orphanage. He’ll get a new home; they’ll get a farmhand.

Except there’s a mistake in the orphanage shipping department, because it’s slender, bony Anne who gets off the train! Matthew is just fine with this. Marilla, though, wants to send Anne packing back to the orphange for a gender-based exchange.

Literary history is relieved that she didn’t, for its Anne who gives the Cuthberts new life, the little town of Avonlea a new spark and generations of readers a new friend. Two world wars have come and gone, airplanes and spaceships, cell phones and Netflix, and still Anne  has been there all these many years, waiting to play by the creek.

The final line — ” ‘God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world,’ whispered Anne softly” — reads more like a benediction as the years pass, a gentle ode to a quiet corner of the world, tucked in just so.

Generally, when a woman loses a brand new shoe on her way out of a really hot party, as Cinderella does here, bad things happen. She is grumpy the entire way home, the good vibes vanish, and the remaining shoe is likely to be thrown, at the very least, at or in the closet.

Cue Prince Charming, Patron Saint of Lost Footwear. Everything turns out spiffy.

This is short, perfect for a bedtime story, and an excellent reminder that very little in life beats a fairy godmother with a keen sense of sartorial style.

Wolves have a hard time of it in kid lit, let’s be honest.

From “Little Red Riding Hood” to “The Story of the Three Little Pigs,” the wolf is always sharp of tooth but not of mind. (Cross-dressing as a little old lady? Who does that?)

But you can’t have a selection of kids’ stories without a big bad wolf (or a dark forest), and, besides, “Pigs” is one of the all-time champs for adults who like to make ridiculous narrative voices while reading bedtime stories. There’s the basso profundo joy of  “Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll bbbbllllooooow your house in!” and the falsetto delight of “Not by the hair of my chinny chinny chin!”

This 1904 retelling, published by the Frederick Warne Co. with illustrations by Leslie Brooke, highlights the benefits of solid home construction and the perils of working with cheap contractors, messages as modern as anything you’ll hear on HGTV.

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Source: LoC Blogs
Children’s Book Week: Classic Freebies

African American Books Events Thomas Jefferson Building

Tracy K. Smith Bids Farewell as U.S. Poet Laureate

Tracy Smith shares a laugh with Vogue Robinson, poet laureate of Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas), during Smith’s farewell event as U.S. Poet Laureate. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Tracy K. Smith concluded her remarkable term as U.S. Poet Laureate with a speech and on-stage conversation at the Library of Congress Monday night, capping two years of travel, podcasts and community conversations across the nation.

Smith began her tenure with a packed reading at the Coolidge Auditorium in Sept. 2017, and she ended it on the same stage in much the same fashion, sharing the platform with five poets laureate from Hawaii to New York.

Speaking to an enthusiastic audience, she said she felt “indescribably lucky.” She had taken the post with the belief that poetry had always been good for the individual. Two years later: “More than ever, I believe it’s good for the collective, the community, even to something resembling the nation.”

The poet’s office in the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center, high in the Jefferson Building, features elegant furniture and dramatic, west-facing views of the U.S. Capitol Building and the National Mall, the Washington Monument in the distance. Smith, however, did not use the space as a retreat for ivory-towered contemplation.

Instead, she used the position for active outreach, working to expand poetry’s impact on multiple fronts. She, with a team from the Library, made seven trips across the country in an “American Conversations” tour, traveling from Alaska to Louisiana, holding readings in rural areas that are not on the typical literary circuit. She typically read from a poem, then asked the crowd, “What did you notice?” and let the conversation go where it willed.

While at home in New Jersey, she recorded more than 100 episodes of “The Slowdown,” her five-minute daily poetry podcast. She also edited a volume of poetry, wrote an opera libretto, penned essays for the New York Times and others, all while maintaining her position as the director and professor of creative writing at Princeton University.

It all combined, she said, to make her rethink what poetry might mean for an often bruised country.

“I was…very determined to push back against the pervasive narrative of America as a divided nation,” she told the crowd at the Coolidge. “The narrative that says people in the rural heartland have nothing in common, not even a shared language, with those living in urban centers.”

Jennifer Benka, president and executive director of Academy of American Poets, a non-profit agency dedicated to supporting the art form, moderated the on-stage conversation. She said that Smith’s grassroots approach had expanded the horizons of dozens of national and regional poetry organizations. “Because of you and the work that you’ve done,” Benka said, “we’ve begun a conversation about how we are serving rural communities in our poetry programming and that’s not something we’ve talked about before.”

Smith and Benka were joined on stage by Vogue Robinson, poet laurate of Clark County, Nev. (Las Vegas); Tina Chang, poet laureate of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Kealoah, poet laureate of Hawaii; Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, poet laureate of Oklahoma; and Adrian Matejka, poet laureate of Indiana.

Smith arrived in Washington just a few hours before the event, stepping off a train at Union Station and rushing into a whirlwind last day. She settled into her office in the Jefferson Building for the final time, beaming.

“When I’m in this room I feel really grateful to be a part of the history that it represents,” she said. “I think about Gwendolyn Brooks and Elizabeth Bishop and Rita Dove and Natasha Trethewey (all former poets laureate). I think about these people who are so important for me as a reader and as a poet.”

The office, and its civic duties, had compelled her to think about poetry not so much as an introspective art, she said, but more often in its role in the public square. That triggered a change in her own poetry, she said.

Poetry, she came to realize, “is something that could make us better at listening to, and being compassionate toward one another as citizens. I think that just being called upon to talk about the art form in those terms has made me think in ways I wouldn’t normally have done. I’m used to thinking about craft-based questions, as a professor, in terms of my own work. But I’ve been thinking more socially and, you know, conceptually. I think my sense of even how I approach different voices is larger as a result.”

Smith was born in Massachusetts in 1972, raised in California, and educated at Harvard, Columbia and Stanford. Her  third book of poetry, “Life on Mars,” won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, and her memoir, “Ordinary Light,” was a 2015 finalist for the National Book Award.

She was the 22nd Poet Laureate of the U.S., and the first chosen by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. Her most spine-tingling moment at the Library? When, as background research for a video tribute for Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday celebration, she pored over his things in the Library’s holdings.

“There were his eyeglasses, his cane, a bust of his hands, and some notebooks of early versions of “Leaves of Grass,” she laughed, “and that was pretty transcendent.”

Source: LoC Blogs
Tracy K. Smith Bids Farewell as U.S. Poet Laureate

Events Poetry

Tracy K. Smith: One Night Only

Smith tours the Santa Fe Indian School as part of her project to bring poetry to underserved communities, Jan. 12, 2018. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Tracy K. Smith, the U.S. Poet Laureate, hasn’t kept to an ivory-tower, life-of-contemplation existence during her two years in the post. It seems she’s hardly sat still.

She’s published her fourth book of poetry, “Wade in the Water.” She’s edited an anthology, “Fifty Poems for Our Time.” She’s toured rural areas of the nation in seven states (from Maine to Louisiana to Alaska), and written about those travels in “American Conversations.” Her daily podcast, “The Slowdown,” will shortly hit episode No. 100. She’s also kept her day job at Princeton University, where she is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor of the Humanities, as well as the director of the creative writing program.

It’s sad to say goodbye, but her final event at the Library will be Monday, April 15,  in the Coolidge Auditorium. She’ll be in conversation with poets from around the nation: Jeanetta Calhoun Mish (Oklahoma), Kealoha (Hawai`i), Adrian Matejka (Indiana), Tina Chang (Brooklyn, NY) and Vogue Robinson (Clark County, NV).  Jennifer Benka, president and executive director of the Academy of American Poets, will host. And yes, book sales and signing will follow. Tickets are free, but required. If you can’t make it, the conversation will be livestreamed from the Library’s Facebook page and our YouTube site (with captions).

Smith was born in Massachusetts in 1972, raised in California, and educated at Harvard, Columbia and Stanford. Her third book of poetry, “Life on Mars,” won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize, and her memoir, “Ordinary Light,” was a 2015 finalist for the National Book Award. This online guide will take you to a reference of her works.

Source: LoC Blogs
Tracy K. Smith: One Night Only

African American Books Events Pic of the Week

Pic of the Week: James Baldwin’s “Little Man, Little Man”

Photo by Shawn Miller.

Aisha Karefa-Smart, James Baldwin’s niece, reads from a recently released edition of “Little Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood,” the only children’s book Baldwin wrote, at a Library of Congress panel discussion on Feb. 28, 2019. Karefa-Smart, a D.C.-based author, wrote the book’s afterword. The book was originally written in 1971, when Baldwin was living in the south of France, the same time and place in which he wrote “If Beale Street Could Talk.” The 120-page novel tells of the adventures of four-year-old TJ – in real life, his nephew and Karefa-Smart’s brother, Tejan Karefa-Smart, who is now a photographer in Paris.

Source: LoC Blogs
Pic of the Week: James Baldwin’s “Little Man, Little Man”

American Birkebeiner bayfield county birkie cable cross country skiing Events hayward kortelopet northwest wisconsin northwoods Play sawyer county winter

10 Reasons Why You NEED to Experience Birkie Week

Fresh snow. Northwoods vibes. Winter athletes. And lots and lots of cowbells. Simply put, there is nothing quite like the American Birkebeiner & Kortelopet. As the first- and second-largest cross-country ski races in North America, the “Birkie” and “Korte” are truly world-class. Take it from me: If you haven’t experienced the “greatest show on snow,” then you are seriously missing out. Here are just 10 reasons why Birkie Week ought to be on your bucket list:

It’s basically the Super Bowl of Silent Sports.
In 2018, about 13,500 skiers from 49 states and 36 counties made their way to northwestern Wisconsin to take part in Birkie Week. And there’s roughly another 25,000-30,000 spectators who flock to the area just to take in the excitement and cheer on the racers.
Cross-country skiing is liiiife here.
I confess: As a kid, I didn’t understand the excitement behind cross-country skiing. Now? Different story. Whether a classic or skate skier, cross-country skiing is both challenging and rewarding. And for those there to cheer on racers instead of strapping on skis? It’s a total thrill to watch!
The Birkie Trail is world-renowned.
A big part of the appeal of this four-day festival of winter fun is the trail itself. The Birkie Trail is over 100 kilometers long and draws skiers, runners, hikers, and bikers year-round from casual-trippers to elite superstars.  The Trail has nine trailside cabins complete with wood stoves and running water – no wonder the Birkie Trail was named the No.1 cross-country ski destination in the nation!
Olympians get their start here.
When I was in town filming the Birkie for Discover Wisconsin, I met up with 2018 U.S. Olympian Annie Hart, who got her start in Hayward participating in the Barnebirkie, later the Kortelopet and eventually, the Olympics. This race is serious business.
There’s something for everyone. Really!
The Birkebeiner is a 50-55k race. So let’s not kid ourselves: It ain’t for the faint of heart. But luckily, there are plenty of other options for those of us who aren’t quite ready for the big leagues. The Kortelopet 29k (or “Korte”) is essentially the “half-marathon” of the event. Starting in Hayward and ending in downtown Hayward, it’s approximately half the distance of the Birkie. What’s more, there’s the Prince Haakon 15k and for kiddos, the Junior Birkie and Barnebirkie!
The finish line is EPIC.
Both Birkie and Korte skiers end their races by skiing toward the finish line on Main Street in downtown Hayward. As a spectator, I have to admit, every one of them looked like a total rockstar.
The history is fascinating. 
In 1206, Torstein and Skjervald, two Birkebeiner warriors, smuggled a baby prince to safety (on skis) during a Norwegian Civil War. Then, in 1973, 35 brave souls paid homage to the “Birkebeiner skiers” of 1206 by donning their own skis for a 50-kilometer trip from Hayward to Telemark Lodge in Cable. Details here for my fellow history nerds!
The volunteerism is beyond impressive.
Clad in orange vests, there are more than 2,600 volunteers who work tirelessly to make sure logistics are runnin’ smoothly, and skiers and spectators are participating safely.
Location. Location. Location.
Let’s be honest: How many reasons do you really need to visit the Cable-Hayward area? Mehhh, not many if you ask me! Northwest Wisconsin is the epitome of the “Northwoods” and the views are particularly unique in February. (Just make sure you pack a few extra layers…)
Two words: BIRKIE FEVER.
If there’s one question I got asked more than any other while I was in town, it was, “Have ya caught Birkie Fever yet?!” It’s a real thing, people. It’s intense. It’s palpable. It’s very contagious. And yes, I did catch Birkie Fever. I’ll catch ya on the Kortelopet route in the near future

Have you attended or raced at the American Birkebeiner? If not, would you? Comment below!

Mariah Haberman is a host and the director of Discover Wisconsin, the state’s leading media brand. Watch the show Saturdays at 10 a.m. on FSN Wisconsin’s outdoor block or online at Follow Mariah on Facebook ( and Instagram (@MariahHaberman)

The post 10 Reasons Why You NEED to Experience Birkie Week appeared first on The Bobber.
Source: The Bobber – Discover Wisconsin
10 Reasons Why You NEED to Experience Birkie Week

Events festivals ice castles lake geneva Play walworth county winter winterfest

19 Reasons to Attend Winterfest in Lake Geneva

Whether you’re looking for the perfect destination for Super Bowl Sunday, a romantic getaway for your Valentine, or the ideal winter solution for cabin fever, Lake Geneva’s upcoming Winterfest & U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship – taking place Jan. 26-Feb. 3 – will have you covered.

You know what they say: Time flies when you’re having fun! There’s a plethora of indoor and outdoor activities, events, and tasty eats and drinks to enjoy with family and friends. Here are just 19 ways to revel in all the Winterfest fun coming up in Lake Geneva:
1.) Witness the talents of snow sculpting artists from around the world at the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship. (Jan. 26-Feb. 2)

2.) Witness the nation’s most skilled hovercraft pilots competing against each other in a technically challenging timed obstacle course. The Lake Geneva Hover Craft Challenge is going down on Jan. 26 – with a world speed record attempt starting at 3:30 p.m.!
3.) Stop downtown for a free night of family fun featuring tons of great cocoa recipes at the Cocoa Crawl. (Feb. 1)
4.) Sip on an amazing vegetable-infused Bloody Mary at Freddie’s West End, one of the best local bars in Wisconsin! (Jan. 27 & Feb. 3)
5.) Experience incredibly realistic golf (with the comfort and convenience of being indoors) when you partake in the Indoor Golf Simulator at Hawk’s View Golf Club. (Jan. 28)
6.) Find out who will win this year’s U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship at the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship Winners Reception. (Feb. 2)
7.) You have just 60 minutes to unravel the mystery and escape the room. Don’t miss the Lake Geneva Clue Room – Fun Escapes! (Jan. 26-Feb. 3)
8.) Try your hand at some fun kid-friendly winter games followed by a colorful light featuring choreographed skiers at the Winter Carnival & Fireworks at The Grand Geneva Resort. (Feb. 2)
9.) Don’t miss the Jeff Balke Studio Pop-Up Cartoon ART Gallery for a glimpse of a 2D animation studio right here in Wisconsin. (Feb. 1-3)
10.) Join in for an afternoon of fun at the Riviera Ballroom with Live Music from all of the talented folks from Lake Geneva House of Music. (Feb. 3)
11.) Winter Woods Paint & Sip: Relax with a glass of wine and join artist Jennifer Stoll to create a 16″x20″ acrylic painting titled “Winter Woods”. (Feb. 2)
12.) It’s a Lake Geneva Winterfest Dance Party! Come join in the Winterfest festivities with LUDY & the Tunes with a dinner dance & show featuring the satin vocals of LUDY and his Jazz Combo the Tunes. (Jan. 26)
13.) Learn how to mix crowd pleasing cocktails in an hour-long mixology class called Shake, Rattle & Roll: Cocktail Workshop. Small plates will be served as you sip, mingle and shake. (Feb. 1)
14.) Wisconsin’s favorite culinary tradition meets the Gatsby era. Don your best 1920’s garb at the Roaring 20s Supper Club Experience and learn where the gangsters of the era hung out after moving the illegal booze for prohibition. (Jan. 29)
15.) What do you get when you combine music, balloon animals, an interactive game show and lots of delicious soups? Why, the Soup-Er Family Fun Night at Harbor Shores of course!. (Jan. 28)
16.) Time for a bowl of everyone’s favorite comfort food: Don’t miss out on the Fourth Annual Lake Geneva Chili Cookoff. (Feb. 2)
17.) If you’re looking for another indoor activity to add to your itinerary, show off your downward dog at Lake Geneva Winterfest Family Yoga at the Lake Geneva Canopy Tour Welcome Center. (Jan. 27)
18.) Form a team and take the reins at this annual wacky tradition! It’s the Human Dog Sled Races at Grand Geneva Mountain Top Chalet!

19.) Two words: ICE. CASTLES. If you’re going to be in Lake Geneva, you absolutely can’t leave without checking out the Ice Castles, which features towers, tunnels, slides, caves, fountains and more!
The post 19 Reasons to Attend Winterfest in Lake Geneva appeared first on The Bobber.
Source: The Bobber – Discover Wisconsin
19 Reasons to Attend Winterfest in Lake Geneva

Concerts Events Music

Gershwin Prize: Emilio and Gloria Estefan to Receive 2019 Award

This post’s publication coincides with our celebration today of George Gershwin’s birthday – he was born on Sept. 26, 1898, in New York City. The Library also announced today the availability of rare Gershwin home movies on its newly launched National Screening Room website.

Emilio and Gloria Estefan. Photo by Omar Cruz. Courtesy of Crescent Moon, Estefan Enterprises Inc.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced this week that husband-and-wife team Emilio and Gloria Estefan are the next recipients of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The honorees represent two firsts for the prize – they are the first married couple to receive the award and the first recipients of Hispanic descent.

The Estefans symbolize the rich cultural diversity of the American musical experience, the Library’s press release about the 2019 prize stated. They have created a unique sound of Latin rhythms that transcends cultural boundaries and have parlayed their creative genius into entrepreneurship and community activism, while propelling the careers of many of today’s Latino artists to stardom. During their more than 30-year career, the Estefans have built a musical empire and made listening to Cuban-infused music one of America’s favorite pastimes.

“The music created by Emilio and Gloria Estefan makes you want to listen to the beat and get on your feet,” said Hayden. “They are the creative force behind the popularity of music steeped in the Latino culture. This dynamic couple’s professional and personal journey truly mirrors the American dream, and we are so pleased to honor their musical legacy.”

Bestowed in recognition of the legendary songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin, the Gershwin Prize recognizes a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of entertainment, information, inspiration and cultural understanding. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson and Tony Bennett.

“From the moment I started singing, I was drawn to the iconic songs of the immensely talented Gershwin brothers and have had the privilege to record several of them,” said Gloria Estefan. “I am deeply honored, along with Emilio Estefan, my beloved husband of 40 years, to be the 2019 recipients of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. This award celebrates lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding and we feel privileged to have been able to live our lives making and sharing music. We are profoundly humbled to have been chosen for this singular accolade.”

“My life and career in music has been a blessing and I’m humbled by this amazing honor and to be sharing it with my wife,” said Emilio Estefan. “I can only hope that our careers will influence a new generation of songwriters and producers. Throughout my career, my wish has always been to inspire minorities and to be an example that with hard work and dedication all your dreams can come true.”

Married since 1978, the Cuban-American Estefans started their rise to global fame in 1985 with Miami Sound Machine, creating a unique sound that blended Latin and pop rhythms. Many of their iconic hits, including “Conga,” “Turn the Beat Around,” “Get on Your Feet” and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” reflect a combination of creative lyrics, high-octane rhythms and spirited vocals. The song “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” is on the National Recording Registry, a listing of sound recordings selected for preservation because of their cultural, historic or aesthetic importance to the nation’s audio heritage.

The Estefans have won dozens of music-industry awards, including multiple Grammys, and their life story and music were showcased in the Broadway musical “On Your Feet!,” nominated for a Tony Award.

Beyond their musical talents, they are successful entrepreneurs, philanthropists and humanitarians. For this work, they have received awards including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The Estefans will receive the Gershwin Prize at an all-star tribute concert in Washington, D.C., in March. The concert will air on PBS stations nationwide in the spring (a date will be confirmed later) and will be broadcast on the American Forces Network to U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.

“Emilio & Gloria Estefan: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” will be a co-production of WETA Washington, D.C.; Bounce, a division of Concord Music Group; and the Library of Congress. Major funding for the broadcast is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Additional funding is provided by The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Fund and The Leonore S. Gershwin Trust for the benefit of the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board, Michael Strunsky, Trustee; and Buffy Cafritz, Tom Girardi and Marjorie Fisher Furman. Air transportation is provided by United Airlines.

In making the selection for the prize, the Librarian of Congress consulted leading members of the music and entertainment communities, as well as curators from the Library’s Music Division, American Folklife Center and Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

Source: LoC Blogs
Gershwin Prize: Emilio and Gloria Estefan to Receive 2019 Award