Every year the Friends of the New Lenox Public Library host a literary themed Spring Arts Festival. With this year marking the 100th Anniversary of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, they embraced a Parisian theme for this fundraising event, featuring French style entertainment.

While the physical decorating was limited because of the library venue, the team brought a French flair to the event by using red, white and blue decorations in honor the French flag. They also had fresh flowers and a signature cocktail. The Cosette-tini was served in honor of Cosette, a featured character in Les Miserables. The group utilized the top floor of the library, transforming the Reference Desk into a service bar.

Signature Drink Cosette-tinis
Photo Credit Michael Swall

Entertainment was inspired by French street performers. “We decided to highlight a modern twist on the French/Parisian theme by taking older arts and putting them into a new light. We decided to go a little deeper—a bit grittier and advanced,” said Programming Librarian Jennifer Hovanec.  Hovanec hired GigMasters members’ French jazz group The Cecile Savage Duo (Chicago, Illinois) and palmistry artist David Curbis (Chicago, Illinois). There was also an Aura Reader on site that added to the mystical energy of the evening.

The Cecile Savage Duo
Photo Credit Michael Swall

The entertainment was instrumental in achieving the event theme. “Their influence on the event was really a tone-setter,” said Hovanec. “It was easy to feel the energy of Les Miserables in the room simply because the sounds and entertainment exuded French street style. The only thing that could have enhanced the mood more would have been cobblestone road underfoot.” There was also plenty of food and drink to keep the festivities going. Local businesses partnered with the library on the event. Establishments such as Connelly’s Catering provided light gourmet appetizers as well as madelines, chocolate covered strawberries, and French themed cookies for dessert.  Another area restaurant, The Irish Pig, served pulled pork and rolled wrap sandwiches.

While patrons were encouraged to eat, drink, and be merry there were a variety of activities available in addition to the entertainers. Guests could take part in a Split the Pot Raffle, a Photo Corner with props, and a Wine Raffle. Local artisans selling everything from handmade furniture to jewelry kept with the Parisian street theme.   

With about 210 guests, the event was a success with the highest attendance yet! Hovanec was also thankful to the entertainers for offering their services on a budget for the fundraiser. “Despite the fact that New Lenox Public Library was only one performer’s home library” she said, “each of the other performers spoke often of how libraries played an important part in their lives”.

What do you think of this event? Have you ever hosted an event with a literary theme? Let us know in the comments below.