By Lindsay Owens Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — Over 40 people walked through the doors of the Washington Carnegie Library meeting room into what very closely resembled a French sidewalk cafe' Friday afternoon for the end party for the adult summer reading program, An Appetite for Life, Friday afternoon.
"Jeff (Gumbel) did all the decorations," said Rick Chambon, summer reading program coordinator. "He even made the flower cart."
Chambon said this years' summer program showed an increase in participants. "We had 70 people in the program this year. Of those 52 completed the requirements to attend the party today. We have 46 of those 52 here today."
To be eligible for an invitation to the end party, participants had to read either "Julia Child My Life in France" or "Z: a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald" and attend a minimum of two programs. This year, participants could chose from programs such as Skype sessions with the author's of the two books, showings of the movie "Midnight in Paris" or "Julia Child", book discussions and programs on France in 1920s, Normandy and the Riviera, and Lalique.
"Rick starts working on things for the summer program about six or nine months ahead of time," said Gumbel. "He's the one that put all these neat things like Skyping with Julia child's nephew together."
Chambon and Teresa Heidenreich, library director, both agreed the end party is the the most anticipated part of the summer reading program. "This is our thank you to the people who participated," said Chambon. "This is also our way of thanking them for supporting the library."
To complete the French cafe' look, Gumbel decked the meeting room in French decor that included everything from a large decal of the Eiffel Tower, a flower cart, and French signage. A "street" musician, Laurent Gruillet, a student at the Indiana University Jacob's School of Music, played the violin to help set the mood for the event now in its fourth year. Gruillet is from Bordeaux, France.
"Jeff and Rick do an absolutely fabulous job with not only the adult summer program but throughout the year as well," said Mary Lou Gotwald.
"You won't find anything like this in a big city library," added Sue Garrett.
Still, even with all the decor and music, participants still anxiously awaited to see the food, all of which was prepared by Gumbel. "Jeff takes his vacation this week so he has plenty of time work on all the food," said Heidenreich." I'd say it takes him almost the whole week to get it all ready."
This years' menu included delicately decorated scones, Julia Child's famous apple tart, carrot cakes in a chocolate shell and a variety of tea sandwiches that ranged from tomato and cucumber to ham and Swiss to name a few. "I still tried to do some of the traditional English tea things as well but I also tried to do as many French inspired things as I could do without killing myself," said Gumbel with a laugh.
Once all the dishes were placed on the table under the Cafe de Paris awnings, many of the participants stepped forward to take photographs of the food.
"The sheer amount of people taking pictures of the layout of food shows the gratitude and appreciation we, the participants, have for all the hard work Jeff and Rick have put into this program. Everyone loves the end party," said Stephanie Onyett.
Many participants agreed the entire program was magnificent. "I just loved the entire program and especially the Skype sessions," said Diane Gill who took part in the program with her friends Valerie Sweeney and Kathleen Harris.
Sweeney, who is from Vincennes, actually purchased a library card just so she could participate with her friends. "I made it to every program. I read the book on Julia Child. I love food and love to cook," she said. "It's usually hard for me to get through a book but this one was excellent and easy for me to read. And I loved the program on Lilique crystal."
Heidenreich said that the adult summer program, as well as most of the other programs offered by the library, is designed to broaden and deepen an appreciation of reading while providing educational programming about a chosen theme. "To look around the room at the ending party and see total strangers, people from different walks of life, sharing stories, enjoying food and music and laughing together is rewarding. If each person takes that little bit of commonality with them when they leave the library and spread it around, we will see inspired innovation and collaborations in the community that improve the place we live, make us stronger and more sustainable," said Heidenreich.