BookFest St. Louis publishes schedule/seeks volunteers

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings For Children  Sonali Dev Mary Engelbreit Left Bank Books Joshilyn Jackson James Brandon Elizabeth McCracken Daniel Wiseman CWE North Community Improvement District BookFest St. Louis 2019 Aaron Coleman   Organizers of 2019’s BookFest St. Louis—the staffs of CWE North Community Improvement District and Left Bank Books —have just released the exciting line-up of authors for next weekend’s 3rd annual book lovers’ event in the Central West End. Be sure to check the list out. There’s a lot packed into Saturday, September 21.

If you have a couple of hours to spare, there is need for a few more volunteers (sign up info, where to pick up your BookFest tee, etc, here).

Authors include two-time National Book Award nominee Elizabeth McCracken, St. Louis-based fan favorite Mary Engelbreit, LGBTQ+ activist and artist James Brandon, poet and Fulbright Scholar Aaron Coleman, children’s book author Daniel Wiseman, acclaimed Bollywood-style romance writer Sonali Dev, and NY Times best selling author Joshilyn Jackson.

Left Bank Books at Euclid and McPherson is action central, though authors will be appearing in a variety of nearby locations. Those include the McPherson Tent, above, The Vino Gallery, Mahler Ballroom (where Friday night’s Whitmania will be presented by the St. Louis Poetry Center), Schlafly Library, TechArtista Co-Working Environment (4818 Washington), and 510 N. Euclid (between Evangeline’s and Cocina Latina).

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings For Children  Sonali Dev Mary Engelbreit Left Bank Books Joshilyn Jackson James Brandon Elizabeth McCracken Daniel Wiseman CWE North Community Improvement District BookFest St. Louis 2019 Aaron Coleman

Left Bank Books’ Kris Kleindienst above right, is shown introducing two of last year’s authors, Sarah Kendzior and Michael Isikoff. Kleindienst will be in conversation with Mary Engelbreit next Saturday starting at 2 p.m. under the McPherson Tent. Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings For Children  Sonali Dev Mary Engelbreit Left Bank Books Joshilyn Jackson James Brandon Elizabeth McCracken Daniel Wiseman CWE North Community Improvement District BookFest St. Louis 2019 Aaron Coleman

The intersection of McPherson and Euclid will be closed east of Euclid to Walton, and at Euclid just north of McPherson to the parking lot. That area is designated as the Festival Zone.Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Events, Sightings For Children  Sonali Dev Mary Engelbreit Left Bank Books Joshilyn Jackson James Brandon Elizabeth McCracken Daniel Wiseman CWE North Community Improvement District BookFest St. Louis 2019 Aaron Coleman

There will be live music, and an assortment of vendors and organizations in attendance. A list those participating can be found here.

Don’t miss BookFest St. Louis which starts on Friday evening September 20 with a poetry event at The Mahler Ballroom. Saturday’s events begin at 10:30 a.m. at Schlafly Library with the appearance of children’s book author Daniel Wiseman. The day ends with St. Louis Youth Slam Team Champs scheduled for 7 p.m. under the McPherson Tent.

You’ll love meeting the authors and hearing them interact with each other during panel discussions. In the last couple of years, BookFest St. Louis has gone from being an unknown quantity to recognized among nationally-known authors and their publishers as the place to be.

Traffic Calming Project on Waterman deserves a closer look

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Though I’ve traveled the 5000-5200 blocks of Waterman countless times, I never thought to ask who was behind the copious plantings that beautify the two blocks from Kingshighway to Union. That stretch of Waterman is home to an eclectic mix of uses, including institutions (Central Reform Congregation, First Unitarian Church and New City School), as well as condominiums, apartment buildings, and single family homes. All are enhanced by an equally eclectic mix of plantings that bloom from February through mid-October.

Waterman is also home to the CWE Farm, which provided the inspiration for long-time resident Tom Brackman, below left, to begin beautifying the street 6 years ago after the awarding of a Federal grant for a Traffic Calming Project he applied for on behalf of the Waterman/Lake Special Business District. Speeding had been an issue for years, but after the installation of the circle close to Kingshighway, above, planters mid-block, and another planter in the center of the street close to Union, drivers were forced to slow down.

Those planters, as well as the infrastructure supporting them, were also paid for by the grant, with additional support from the City of St. Louis and the Waterman/Lake SBD which contributed matching funds.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Brackman, a retired lawyer who owns seven properties on the street, volunteers his services. Lisa Wells, right, one of Brackman’s tenants and his partner in this effort, is hired by the Waterman/Lake SBD to plant, maintain, and water the plant materials. “It’s extremely rewarding and therapeutic work,” she said.

Brackman credits his late partner, a Missouri Botanical Garden employee, for teaching him about plant materials and nurturing his love of gardening.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

The photos above and below show one of two matching planters mid-block. The late Bob Cassilly’s designs are incorporated into the base of the planters. Cassilly’s signature design is also used on the planters that can be found in the medians on Forest Park Parkway and 5100-5200 Delmar.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Brackman has donated many of the plants, but when he and Wells need more he said they look for bargains. “Everything we buy is cheap,” he said, “in the range of 25 cents — we look for plants that are on sale.”

They are also careful to choose durable plants that need less water, and they increase their yield by dividing many of them, such as hostas, daisies, and snow-on-the-mountain.

A couple of years ago Operation Brightside donated 10,000 daffodil bulbs, which Brackman and Wells dig up after the spring bloom and store Brackman’s basement to be planted again in the fall.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Large urns at the busy corner of Kingshighway and Waterman contain a mixture of plants including sun-loving cannas and caladiums.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

When 28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro donated a tree to be planted in a tree well in front of the CWE Farm, Brackman was inspired to paint the fire hydrant next to it, above left. Next he painted the hydrant at Lake and Waterman to assist in making that intersection a “plaza area.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Urban Gardens  Waterman/Lake Special Business District Traffic Calming Project Tom Brackman Tom Brachman New City School First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation

Brackman and Wells were also given the okay by the Oxford Condominium board to plant and maintain several daylily beds at Waterman and Union, above.

“Whenever Lisa or I are working on the gardens, neighbors and passers-by tell us how much they like the plantings and thank us for beautifying the street. That makes the work very gratifying,” Brackman said. “And it has changed the whole mentality of people driving along the street, now they seem to enjoy the view instead of speeding through.” He estimates that cars are traveling 15 mph slower than before the Traffic Calming Project was put in place, a successful outcome for a job beautifully well done.

Hodiamont Tracks Clean-up Day reaps more rewards than anticipated

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

On a hot Saturday morning early this month, a large group of volunteers gathered at Lane Tabernacle CME Church at 910 N. Newstead to “Clean up and Green up the Hodiamont Tracks.” The Tracks, a 3.5 mile former streetcar/bus right-of-way just north of Delmar, is being considered for development by Great Rivers Greenway, the public agency that connects the region with a system of greenways.

Residents of the 7 neighborhoods that border the Tracks, which extend from Vandeventer to Skinker (near Gwen Giles Park), have expressed overwhelming support for the plan. When considering an extension to their system, a major concern of Great Rivers Greenway is ongoing maintenance. To demonstrate how seriously the affected neighborhoods want the project to be adopted, Judith Arnold, a resident of the Vandeventer neighborhood, and a committee of about 20 people, organized the clean-up day for August 10, and sent out a call for volunteers.  Judith hoped for 200 people, 209 answered the call.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

Mayor Lyda Krewson was there for the kickoff, middle above, and extended her gratitude to the volunteers for their participation. There were residents from the 7 neighborhoods that border the Tracks, groups from Churches United in the 18th Ward, several Boy Scout and Girl Scout Troops, staff from Great Rivers Greenway, Brightside St. Louis, and Mission STL.  I met a mother and her 10 year-old daughter who drove in from Fenton to participate after seeing the event on local news. And a few of us were there because we recognize what a positive impact the development of this greenway just north of us will have on the entire community.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

From left, 26th Ward Alderman Shameem Hubbard, whose Ward includes blocks that border the Tracks, and 1st District Congressman William Lacy Clay. Congressman Clay said he grew up on a block of Cabanne, which is in Hubbard’s Ward.

Others who came to show support for the event included 18th Ward Alderman Jesse Todd, and 28th Ward Alderwoman Heather Navarro and her family.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

Volunteer Coordinator & Event Organizer Judith Arnold (at podium above right) introduced 9 field supervisors (standing behind her), who were each assigned a section of the Tracks and a team of volunteers.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

I got one of the plum assignments with a group that included Congressman Lacy Clay and 22 members of his Congressional Youth Cabinet, which was a wonderful experience. We were charged with picking up trash along the Tracks from Kingshighway east to Taylor.

I was impressed that the Congressman stayed for the duration of the cleanup and worked as hard as anyone. He stopped occasionally to chat with residents who would do a double-take and then walk over to visit, including Pastor Clinton Stancil (in white shirt above) from nearby Wayman AME Church, who kindly invited us over for barbecue.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Services  Mayor Lyda Krewson Judith Arnold Great Rivers Greenway Congressman Lacy Clay Alderwoman Heather Navarro Alderman Shameem Hubbard Alderman Jesse Todd

The photo above shows Congressman Clay, his Congressional Youth Cabinet (Jasmina Hadzic in red hat is in charge of the group), and several other volunteers wearing their “Clean up” tees. (I’m deep in the background.)

Arnold arranged for the City’s Refuse Division to collect bulk items in advance of the clean-up day (illegal dumping is a persistent problem along the Hodiamont Tracks), and the Forestry Division to clear overgrowth and honeysuckle.

It’s amazingly quiet along the Hodiamont Tracks—almost like a country road. On that summer morning there wasn’t much more than the sound of birds and humming insects in the brush, which allowed for some nice conversations with my teammates. There was an opportunity to thank  Congressman Clay for sponsoring H.R. 3435, a bill in Congress that would give cities freedom to pass their own gun restrictions, and we chatted about how proud he is of the young people in his Youth Cabinet.

There was such a positive feeling among the people who worked together that day. Doing physical work for a common cause brought strangers together. It really is true that we are all basically alike and have shared interests and concerns. We want safe neighborhoods, good education for our children, clean streets, and most of all a solution to rampant gun violence.

If you haven’t tired of reading by now, here is one more story:

In preparation for this clean up day my husband Jim made many trips along the length of the Tracks to take photos so Judith Arnold would know how many volunteers she needed to assign to each section.

On each trip he waved to the same group of people sitting in the shade on a trash-strewn stretch of the Tracks just west of Kingshighway. Apparently, they had gotten word that there was going to be a cleanup. To his great surprise Jim discovered that they had pitched in and transformed the area. When he stopped to thank them for their efforts they asked about the t-shirts they had seen on the volunteers. He said he would see what he could do and returned later with a shirt for each of them, which they proudly wore.

Bottom line: The collective effort of so many was nothing short of inspirational. Kudos to Judith Arnold for her capable leadership and to all sponsoring organizations for their contributions.

P.S. – Congressman Clay’s Congressional Youth Cabinet is looking for the “Next Generation of Leaders in Missouri’s First District.” For more information on this opportunity, click 2019 2020 CYC Brochure. There is also a Congressional Internship Program for undergraduates and graduate students seeking professional experience while earning academic credit through their university. For more info, click Internship Pamphlet Fall 2019 Spring 2020

And finally, I’ll leave you with this comment from Congressman Clay’s local staffer Jasmina Hadzic in response to my thanking her for sending info for this post. It is another example of how the Clean up Day gave me so much more than I could ever give:

  “I feel obligated to serve the United States government and the party that saved thousands of refugees who were displaced by the war in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Similarly, I am grateful to Saint Louis and it’s citizens for welcoming us in 1997 and for giving us the chance to make a positive impact.  Without a doubt, I want to do all I can to set a good example for our youth, and make our city a better place to live.”