Portland lit lovers put their creativity on display at Edible Book Fest

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PORTLAND — Edible masterpieces inspired by a favorite book will fill the cafeteria at Riverton Elementary School next week when the school hosts its first Edible Book Festival.

The event, which is open to the public, will take place 5-7 p.m. Thursday, April 6. Spectators are welcome and, after judging is complete, can dig in.

There is still time to enter the contest by registering online or calling 871-1700, ext. 723.

Each entry will be judged on various elements, including originality and creativity, skill and construction, and visual appeal. The creations must also tie-in with the literary work portrayed, according to Christine Wirth, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Riverton, who is helping to organize this year’s event.

The categories are elementary; middle and high school; teams of two or more from various clubs, civic groups or even parent and kid teams; adult; food and beverage professional; and people’s choice.

Susan Doane, one of the school’s librarians, Joann Sparks, a cafeteria worker at the school, and Barbara Graves, a resident who owns her own cake company, will be this year’s judges, Wirth said.

Entries can represent anything from a pun on a famous book title, to a cake or a gingerbread diorama. Entries can be made out of anything edible and participants are encouraged to be as creative as possible.

After 10 years at Portland Public Library in downtown, the Edible Book Festival is now moving to Riverton Elementary, where the community center hosts a branch of the library.

“It’s another way to get people excited about books and talking about books,” Rachel Harkness, program manager at the public library, said of the festival.

“It’s a great event and it only gets better with more entries, so we highly encourage people to participate.”

Wirth said Riverton Elementary picked up hosting duties for the Edible Book Festival after the public library could no longer host the event due to conflicts with other programs.

“Three Riverton teachers entered in 2015, and we really loved the event, so we wanted to bring (it here),” she said. “We (also) wanted to bring some good press to Riverton, so we could highlight the school and all that it offers to our diverse community.”

“We have an incredibly dedicated group of teachers and parents who are working tirelessly to build the reputation of the school (and) we really want to bring people into the school to see what we do,” Wirth added.

Many students and teachers at Riverton are already hard at work creating a variety of entries that tie into books students at the school have read, she said.

What Harkness has most enjoyed about the festival over the years is how the entries are “very abstract, funny or quite literal. Every entry is great in its own way.”

Some of the most creative entries from past festivals, she said, include a play on the book, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

The entrant “reworked the title and created a dish called, ‘Beer and loathing in Las Haggis,’ which involved a beer can and the Scottish (dish) haggis among other things,” Harkness remembered.

“Other times people have created beautiful cakes from scenes of their favorite children’s book,” she said. One time, “we even had a reenactment of “Lord of the Flies” done in Marzipan on a chocolate cake island.”

Wirth agreed with Harkness, saying the best part about the festival is seeing “the creativity of the entries.”

“I also like that you get exposed to books that you may not have heard of and seeing them in cake form motivates you to read them,” she said.

“We really encourage anyone from greater Portland to come out and show their support,” Wirth said. “It’s a great event to do with young children. I have entered twice with my son and every time we read a new book, we talk about whether it would make a good edible book entry.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

A past entry in the Edible Book Festival was based on the popular gingerbread man fairy tale for children.

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