Blogger Jonathan Dolce

Geeks Win During COVID

star wars cosplayer

Winning During COVID

So, winning a major award at just about any other time would come with a different set of emotions.  Winning during COVID is like holding our breath all over again.  The news, alerts and aid during COVID of course takes complete precedence.  But, you know, we geeks really can’t wait to celebrate with everyone!

Excellence in Small/Rural Public Library Service

Five years ago, we decided as a team to host a festival of sorts, utilizing the park next door to our library and aid from our Friends group.  I had experience with hosting all manner of large programs including an all-day Renaissance festival, so I green-lighted the project.

Firstly, what is GeekFest?  And secondly, you may wonder, what makes it so special?  Geek Fest brings together youth engineering groups, writers, artisans and musicians of all ages, and groups from all across Central Florida.  Just a few of the past exhibitors have included: The Society for Creative Anachronism; Southern R2 Builders of Central Florida; Renaissance Robotics Team 5937; and The Ocklawaha Sutler.  This collection of exhibitors represent the support of Central Florida groups, and aids greatly in putting the community of Astor on the map.  What is more, this innovative program features volunteer educational groups, as well as exhibitors who create but also educate attendees.

Earning the 2020 Public Library Association’s EBSCO Excellence in Small/Rural Public Library Service award, a national award is a testimony to many things.  Yes, GeekFest bolsters team spirit across departments, including Parks & Trails, Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Lake County Office of Fire Rescue and of course Library Services.  And GeekFest reflects what we all aspire to: excellence in library programming – an enriching experience for all who attend.  Even more than this, though, is the collaboration between local agencies and a support of local talent and artisans.

Judge Us By Our Size?

It would be easy to judge us by our size.  Having said that, though, we really had no idea just how far GeekFest would go.  In 2015, we had roughly a dozen exhibitors, a number we would triple.  It was truly an improbably experiment.  Astor, Florida is an unusual town, straddling the St. John‘s River, which divides the town into two counties; Lake and the other one.  Roughly 1500 round-year residents call Astor home, a number that swells to 3000 in the winter.  And Astor sits at the tip of 33 miles of bear crossing.  So, a Geek Fest?  With dedication, teamwork and a passion for all things geek, the road was paved, unlike many roads in Astor.

Photo courtesy of Friends of Astor County Library

It Takes a Community of Geeks

It takes a community of geeks to put on an event of this size.  And it would be impossible to discuss GeekFest without also discussing the festival’s brainchild, Elise VanCise.  Elise’s enthusiasm and creativity are infectious, and inspired many of her teammates’ costumes.  Indeed, my own steampunk Darth Vader costume went on to win awards!

Steampunk Industrial Show Jan 2017

Photo courtesy of Elise Vancise

But the real upshot of GeekFest is what it accomplishes.  This festival aids in recruiting new volunteers for the County and members for the Friends of Astor County Library.  Additionally, local agencies, such as Kiwanis, Astor’s Chamber of Commerce, AFPOA, Moose Lodge and VFW Post 9986 have members who are a part of our programming.  The spirit of partnership is critical to our programming and GeekFest is instrumental in maintaining close ties.  Overall, GeekFest has an impact on the community as a whole, and establishes Lake County Library system as a local and countywide leader.

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