-Spoon River Reads features Steinbeck's America and the Great Depression...


Let the reading begin!  The Spoon River Reads committee has selected John Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath as its featured novel for the 2013 Read program.  The Grapes of Wrath was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 but its focus on the American themes of hard work, self-determination, and reasoned dissent makes it timeless. In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1962, Steinbeck said, “Literature is as old as speech.  It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.” 
The Grapes of Wrath chronicles the life of an Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west with thousands of others seeking the promised land of California during the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s.  The migrants began their journey to California due to the stock market crash of 1929, because of the post-World War I recession, as a result of a seven year drought which devastated family farms and caused bank foreclosures, and because of an unemployment rate of nearly 30%. 
The Spoon River College Foundation, Parlin Ingersoll Public Library, Two Rivers Arts Council, and many other partnering organizations and businesses are sponsoring over 20 public events between August 15 and November 10 to celebrate Steinbeck’s America and the Great Depression.
“Each year we are amazed at the creative ways in which our partners participate in Spoon River Reads,” said Jenny Beal, co-chair of the Read program.  “This year we have several popular events returning along with new performances, film screenings, and arts displays.”
The Read season opens with the play “The Grapes of Wrath” performed by the Fulton County Playhouse on August 15-18 at the Barn in Bryant.  The Playhouse produced “Our Town” as part of the 2012 Read and is a welcome return to the Read program.
The annual Spoon River Reads Kick-Off Dinner, scheduled for Thursday, August 29 at Kemper Banquet Hall, is one of the most popular events of the year. The 1930s themed atmosphere and family-style dinner will feature music reflecting The Great Depression and Dust Bowl Era and an electronic display of Depression photography. Attendees will be entertained by the highly popular Brian “Fox” Ellis, internationally acclaimed author, storyteller, historian, and naturalist.
The dinner event is open to the public and reservations may be made by calling (309) 647-6260.  The deadline for reservations is Wednesday, August 21.
The premiere of a new Canton history book by Brooks Carver and Mike Walters, On the Corner of Union and Prairie, will be available for purchase for the first time at the dinner.  The book features intriguing stories, advertising, news articles, and photographs of Canton’s most famous and infamous people, buildings, and events.
“The generosity shown by Mr. Carver and Mr. Walters is overwhelming,” said Carol Davis, Vice President of Community Outreach at Spoon River College.  “I have enjoyed each of the three books that have been offered during the Read, but this is my personal favorite.” 
Even though the book is twice the number of pages as last year’s Legacy, the purchase price remains the same as last year.”
“There will also be a very limited number of hardcover editions for sale as well,” Davis added.  “What many people do not know is that neither of the authors takes any remuneration for his work.  The authors donate all proceeds to the Foundation for scholarships. Everyone benefits from their benevolence.”
As in years past, WBYS Radio will feature a public reading of one of Steinbeck’s most familiar novels.  A variety of local readers will present a dramatization of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men,
Monday through Friday from 9:05 – 9:30 a.m. in October.    Steinbeck’s 1937 novel was written with a short, dialogue-heavy style primed for stage production once the exposition was removed making it a perfect selection for the Radio Read. 
Several special events are scheduled in conjunction with the Read. 
With the assistance of a grant from the Two Rivers Arts Council, popular performer and entertainer Barry Cloyd will return to Fulton County with his one man show, “An Evening with Woody Guthrie,” on Thursday, September 19 in the SRC Theater in Taylor Hall.  Woody Guthrie saw the film “The Grapes of Wrath,” which greatly influenced his classic song cycle “Dust Bowl Ballads” and “Tom Joad, Parts 1 and 2.”
“On the Corner of Then and Now” will take place on Monday, September 30.  The Greenwood Cemetery Walk has become an extremely popular Read event with over 400 in attendance at the presentations.  Local actors will portray a variety of Canton residents and tell little known stories of their lives and times in the area.  The event is sponsored by the Greenwood Cemetery Board.
Art and Literature will be featured on Tuesday, October 29 at the Bistro 101 in Canton.  The event will display art by area students, celebrate the new book by Carver and Walters, and feature a light buffet.
The Spoon River College Community Chorus presents “Somewhere Over the Rainbow – Songs of the Depression and Dust Bowl Era” on November 9 and 10 at the First Christian Church in Canton.  The concert will feature such memorable songs as “Brother Can You Spare a Dime,” “Happy Days Are Here Again,” Pennies from Heaven,” “Sunny Side of the Street,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Several book discussions will be held in September and October.  The Grapes of Wrath will be discussed at the YMCA on September 13, at Parlin Ingersoll Public Library on September 24, and the Farmington Public Library on October 14.  Cannery Row will be featured on September 17 at Parlin as well.
In addition, several Read-related films will be shown throughout the county.  Dickson Mounds will screen “The Grapes of Wrath” on September 7, “Cannery Row” on October 8, and “Of Mice and Men” on November 2.  “Cannery Row” can be seen on September 13 and “Bound for Glory” on October 11 at Parlin Ingersoll Public Library.   The Farmington Public Library will have Dinner and a Movie featuring The Grapes of Wrath on October 14.
Dickson Mounds presents Tales of the Westward Expansion with Brian Ellis on October 19, Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Era by Bucky Halker & Chris Villillo at 2:00 p.m. and the Hickory Ridge Concert Series with Bucky Halker at 7:30 p.m. on October 19.  Each Wednesday, September 18 through October 16, the Canton YMCA will offer a “Walk the Road to California” wellness event with weekly prizes awarded.
Several area high schools, the Fulton-Schuyler Alternative School, and students in the SRC TRIO program will be studying the works of Steinbeck this fall.  Once again, a book club led by Dave Bishop at the Illinois River Correctional Facility will also be studying the novel.
“The entire project is to celebrate a love of reading and to encourage literacy for all,” said Carol Blackfelner, program co-chair.  “We are very pleased to see so many educational institutions participate year after year.  Some are reading Grapes of Wrath, while others will read Of Mice and Men or other Steinbeck selections.”
For more information, visit www.src.edu/spoonriverreads, call (309) 647-6260, or view Spoon River Reads posters located in Read sponsors’ establishments.
Calendar of Events
Kick-Off Dinner Information