The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Victorian Dress, Duct Tape Edition

When looking for post ideas for the Big Read blog, I often like to browse through our online events calendar for topics. Our Big Read communities always have tons of great events out there, but every once in a while, one will really stand out and make me itch to participate. I had that exact reaction when I saw the listing for Cromaine Library's Edgar Allan Poe-inspired Victorian dress competition---done in duct tape! Since Hartland, Michigan, is a bit far for even the most devoted crafter (though, tempting!), I decided I had to feature them in a Big Read blog post. Fortunately, Carol Taggart, Cromaine Library's marketing manager, and Jeanne Smith, their youth and adult manager, were kind enough to chat by e-mail about their experiences with the Big Read and this exciting and imaginative event.

NEA: Is this your community's first Big Read? If not, what other books have you chosen in the past?

CAROL TAGGART: This is our fifth Big Read at Cromaine. Our first was in 2007 when we read Fahrenheit 451, then To Kill a Mockingbird in 2009, and The Things They Carried in 2010. Tim O'Brien visited that year, what a treat! In 2011, we did not receive a Big Read grant but hosted our own reading of Bless Me, Ultima. In 2012, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, [and now,] on to this year's reading of Poe.

NEA: Can you tell me about some of your other experiences with the Big Read?

TAGGART: Our Big Read events have offered us the opportunity to bring many wonderful events to Hartland that we, as a public library, would not be able to afford otherwise. Presenting Tim O'Brien to our high school students and our community was a highlight. Exposing students to historical events and new ways of thinking, through music, movies, and ultimately stories has been huge for our community. Many who may not have otherwise visited the library or picked up a book now know that Cromaine is a place where exciting things happen!

NEA: Why did you choose The Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe as your book this year?

TAGGART: We have wanted to do Poe for many years, but because of the time period that we host Big Read---March through April---we have always stayed away from it; fall is such a great time for Poe. But we thought this would be an opportunity to reach out to fathers and sons, young men in our community who may not be big readers. We are hoping to attract them without the distraction of Halloween events!

2nd Prize was Nick Jeffrey, with his double-sided vest and ascot. Photo courtesy of the Cromaine Library
NEA: What made you decide on a duct tape Victorian dress contest?

JEANNE SMITH: Two or three years ago we did a duct tape Project Runway. If I remember correctly, people could make anything they wanted. We gave them a few things that they HAD to include, i.e. pom poms, feathers, etc. It was a HUGE success. We packed the room and even fathers attended. Since that was so much fun we decided to do it again, and thought the Big Read was the perfect time to do it.

TAGGART: We have a full week of spring break events for youth and teens who aren't going out of town for spring break. This is something we started doing several Big Reads ago, and it has been very successful. Parents enjoy having something free and fun for their kids to do over break.

SMITH: [W]e thought if we gave out the package of goodies and directions the first day of spring break, the kids would have time to work on it. I loved how people got up and explained how they made their creations, the young man with the vest used the cotton balls by covering them with duct-tape and those were his buttons! If we get next year's Big Read with The Great Gatsby, I can just see the duct-tape flapper outfits!

NEA: How did the event go?

SMITH: There were seven creations, some worked on by teams, others by individuals. Many people mentioned they had to do some research on Victorian dress as they were not aware of the styles. We had ascots and bustles. It was very hard to decide a winner. I was ready to put everyone's name in a hat and pull winners, but we finally agreed on three creations.

3rd Prize winners Katerina Willis and Kayla Everette. Photo courtesy of the Cromaine Library

In addition to this contest, Cromaine Library has also featured visits from a special agent from the Detroit office of the FBI, a psychic, medical doctor, and a Poe impersonator! For more information on Cromaine Library and their amazing catalogue of Big Read events, please visit their website.




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