By: Sabrina Spector, Cultural & Festival of ABC Director
Etta Denk of presenting sponsor Bank of America with CBS News National Correspondent, Dan Raviv.
I love this time of year. I love the cooler weather, the fall colors, the apple desserts, the holidays and of course, my job. For the past nine years, I have been fortunate enough to be the Cultural Director at the Katz JCC. The biggest part of my job is coordinating the Bank of America Festival of Arts, Books, and Culture. The festival is now in its 27th year and I am thrilled that I have been part of its history. Funded by the Jewish Community Foundation years ago and coordinated by a group of dedicated volunteers, the festival has grown into a nationally recognized festival and is often sought after by some of the most popular authors of our time.
Our list of distinguished guests is quite large and includes names of politicians and diplomats, film and television stars, sports legends, activists, best-selling authors, medical mavens, business movers and shakers, war heroes and some of the most intriguing people you’ll ever meet.
I’ve been blessed to meet some of my childhood stars and listen to some of the most incredible people share their wisdom. But after all my years, the most impactful people are the authors that no one has ever heard of. They are not household names, although all of our authors are accomplished professionals and highly regarded in their fields. They are not famous (yet) and they are humble, delighted to share their stories to our audience.
For those who volunteer on the best committee in town, we have a little mantra that we try to share with all – the unknown names are the true stars and gems of the festival. They rarely disappoint and are generally the ones who leave the audience inspired, laughing or crying, and often begging for more. Our patrons can attest to the fact that it just does not matter if you know a name, the stories are rich, fulfilling, and more impactful then you can possibly imagine.
When I look back at the history of the festival, young authors such as Jennifer Weiner, Jonathan Safran Foer, Mitch Albom, Faye Kellerman, Joseph Telushkin, Brad Meltzer, and so many were unknowns or rising stars when they first visited us. Today, I wonder who will be the next big hit and when they are the household name, I can tell the story of when they came to our festival.
I’m lucky because I get a sneak peek at the authors and I eat and breathe their books. I know how awesome they are. The hardest part of my job is to tell the community how spectacular they are but then again, I also have the magic of the festival. Anyone who has ever attended a festival program, big or small, will tell how you special it was. Go ahead, take the challenge and ask your friends what they think and then come discover for yourself.
Like I said, I love this time of year for so many reasons. This year I have 23 more reasons to love this season.