Fall is a season of rituals, the gaudiest and most pervasive of which is football. Thousands pack stadiums and millions prostrate themselves in front of TVs to partake of the chills, thrills and, as Badger and Packer fans are discovering, disappointments of this ubiquitous game. Then, of course, there's Halloween, with its fantasy and fun opportunities.
Another ritual you could add to the list is the Wisconsin Book Festival, now in its seventh year and firmly established on the fall calendar. This year's edition starts Wednesday, Oct.15, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 19. Of course, you know this, as you've read the festival program included with last week's Isthmus. You may have been reminded again last Tuesday night by the appearance of the humorist writer David Sedaris at the Overture Center. More than 2,000 people filled the hall for what was billed as a preview of the Wisconsin Book Festival.
In case you need further reminding, our arts feature this week is Dave Medaris' festival heads-up, "The Oprah Effect." The title refers to the boost given books and reading by the popular TV hostess. The festival gains for having presciently scheduled Wisconsin author David Wroblewski to appear; his book, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, was recently anointed by her "O"-ness.
Another significant fall ritual is the annual community fund-raising exercise. Groups like Community Shares and United Way pick this time of year to solicit the funds that keep their programs operating. I've been involved with United Way for a number of years and currently sit on the Vision Council, a body that oversees the program activities of the organization. I recently had the opportunity to witness the Healthy for Life Community Solution Team, one of six in the United Way hierarchy, which met to make the final community investment recommendations for 2009.
About a dozen citizen volunteers, supported by three UW staff members, made the tough decisions about how the projected $1.4 million their team had to invest would be split among the applying programs. As you might imagine, the funds requested were more than the funds available. I was mightily impressed by the thoroughness of the deliberations and the wisdom demonstrated in the decisions.
Ultimately, these decisions are dependent on the requisite funds being raised. In these times, that is not something to be taken for granted. So I urge those of you who have yet to make your contribution to not neglect this ritual. The money is needed and is, I can assure you, responsibly disbursed.