Wickeds, part of the job of writing a series is building a community. In your books, have you created any unique community events or celebrations? Did you base them on anything that you’ve experienced? Or did the idea spring from your imagination?
Edith: Death Over Easy features several scenes at the Brown County Bluegrass Festival in Beanblossom, Indiana. In her new B&B rooms, protagonist Robbie Jordan lodges several musicians performing at the festival. The Beanblossom Bluegrass Festival and the Bill Monroe Music Park are real things in the real town of Beanblossom, but I altered the name of both the park and the festival just in case I needed to change any part of the layout or the festival dates – and so nobody would be murdered at or near the real festival! I didn’t create a unique event, exactly, but I had fun including the sounds and sights of hundreds of bluegrass musicians and fans.
Barb: I’ve included all kinds of community events in the Maine Clambake series, including Founder’s Day in Boiled Over, which is a kind of combination of the Fishermen’s Festival and Windjammer Days as they are celebrated in the real Boothbay Harbor. But, because I’ve now written two Christmas novellas, my favorite things to incorporate are holiday traditions. In “Nogged Off,’ in Eggnog Murder, I included Santa coming in a lighted boat parade, the Festival of Trees, Gentleman’s Night, and the day everyone shops in their pajamas. In “Logged On” in Yule Log Murder I included the Illuminations at the Maine Coast Botanical Gardens, which is really Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
Jessie: I have a jumble sale featured in the first Beryl and Edwina book, Murder in an English Village. In Murder Flies the Coop the folks of Walmsley Parva celebrate May Day with a fete in the center of the village complete with a tombola and a May Pole. Village fetes adn May Day celebrations were a very real part of village life in 1920s England. In my second Change of Fortune mystery, Whispers of Warning, the town of Old Orchard, ME is celebrating the opening of the worlds’s longest pleasure pier. I based much of the scene of the pier opening on the real event that took place there in July, 1898.
Sherry: Jessie, I love the celebration of the pier in Whispers of Warning! The New England’s Largest Yard Sale featured in The Longest Yard Sale is based on lots of local flea markets and antique fairs I’ve attended over the years. In The Gun Also Rises Sarah puts together a community fundraiser for a veteran with PTSD. While he was station in Afghanistan he adopted a street dog and his wife and friends think it will help the veteran if the dog can be brought to Ellington. Here is a link to an organization that helps vets bring home: https://pawsofwar.org/worn-torn-pups/
Liz: In my Pawsitively Organic series, there are a lot of fun community events, most of which are based on real things that happen in the town after which I modeled Frog Ledge. The Christmas tree lighting in Purring Around the Christmas Tree happens every year on the green, although Santa usually makes it out alive. However, the Groundhog Day celebration in The Icing on the Corpse was completely made up. However, I really wish I’d found a way to work this one in:
Julie: I love creating festivals and gatherings for characters. In Chime and Punishment, the third of my Clock Shop series, Winding Day is when the old clock tower is going to be wound for the first time in years. It’s a big deal, and Ruth and her team need to solve a murder first. In A Christmas Peril opening night of A Christmas Carol looms over the book. That’s always festive. Pruning the Dead starts with a garden party, and also includes a park cleanup. Community plays a huge role in my Garden Squad series.
Readers, we’re always in need of inspiration. Tell us about some unique celebrations in your community?
Chestertown, Md is busy year round. Just off the top of my head are the Tea Party in late May, the National Music Festival in early June, Potter Fest in early October, and A Dickens of a Christmas in early December.
Those all sound wonderful. What’s Potter Fest?
Our Officially Unofficial Harry Potter Festival the first weekend of October, unrelated to RK Rowling (I hope I’ve used the correct officialize).
I live in Indiana and there always seems to be some type of festival happening! Several counties over is a big one in August. It is the Blueberry Festival and has been on-going for over 50 years! There is a parade, several I think, an amusement park, hundreds of craft vendors, bands, and so much food! Blueberry everything, of course, but also normal fair food. The thing I like the most are the yard sales. They stretch for miles before you arrive at the festival. It really is a fun thing to do and a great end-of-summer adventure!
In the towns surrounding Goshen, where I live, we have many tourist places, namely Middlebury and Shipshewana. Each of these towns have so many events during the year. Middlebury has a pajama shopping day in February. I have never been brave enough to do that at 4 am in winter! Shipshewana has a gigantic flea market that runs in the Spring and Summer. There are also auctions that happen regularly. We also have quilt auctions, garden tours, etc. Really, if you all need ideas for books, just come down here!
I might take you up on that, Deb!
The Blueberry festival sounds like a ton of fun. The pajama shopping day needs to end up in a book.
My town of Middleboro, Massachusetts, holds a lot of events, including Krazy Days, where various booths take over the main street through town for a day. The town also bought the 18th-century Oliver Estate on the edge of town (built by a prosperous shovel-maker for his son and new bride, who happened to be the governor’s daughter) and now holds various events there–including a ghost tour. We also hold the record for the largest Town Meeting in state history, when residents were voting on whether to negotiate with the Wampanoag Indian tribe about building a casino in town (didn’t happen).
Sheila, I had no idea. Ghost tour? I need to visit.
Sheila, you had me at the prosperous shovel-maker who married the governor’s daughter. I’d say that that alone was sufficient fodder for a whole series of books, except everyone would assume it was an invention. Maybe your “Largest Town Meeting” could meet up with Sherry’s Longest Garage Sale?
I created a home-brew competition in a short story, “A Brew to Die For,” in MURDER MOST SCENIC. There are lots of micro and home-brewing competitions in the Laurel Highlands.
Next year’s HEAVEN HAS NO RAGE makes reference to Winterfest, which is a real winter festival that occurs January/February (depending on snowfall) near Ohiopyle.
I love it when you can weave real events and your imagination.
I love the lights at our Botanical Garden, we go every year. One that I have only watched on TV is the cardboard boat race. Full sized boats that is. Yep, in order to win you have to stay a float and get to the finish line. I could see some sabotage and murder in there for sure!
My mind is whirring with possibilities!
Although we are small town (less than 3000 residents), we have lots of celebrations each year attended by people number in the high five digits. One unique one is our Bean Fest and Outhouse Races held each year in October.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
Dare I ask? Outhouse races?
The size of the crowds speaks to why these events work in our books. That’s a huge turnout!
I don’t know that it’s unique but my town does a car cruise night where they close a few blocks of the Main Street and people park classic cars. Then people come check out the cars and hopefully check out the downtown businesses. They also do free outdoor concerts during the summer
That sounds like a ton of fun, and a good writing prompt!
I think all the Wickeds should be working as event planners for your local towns. I see lots of good ideas here.
The Wicked Town would be a ton of fun. Lots of reading groups.
Lancaster, PA has a plague of crows every year as they migrate. All kinds of things have been tried to discourage them from overwhelming the mall and generally being a nuisance I never realized just how huge they are until they started landing in our backyard. Lancaster decided if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. So, there are a lot of crow festivities during the migratory period – including crow haiku contests, weird food fests (does not include crow), bars naming special drinks, etc.
Also, the towns around here each celebrate New Year’s Eve dropping (or in case raising!) different objects at midnight. Lancaster drops a red rose, York drops a white rose, Lebanon drops a giant salami (yes, that is where Lebanon salami comes from), Hershey raises a huge Hershey kiss. There are more, but that’s all I can think of at the moment.
Remind me to wear protective headgear if I ever visit Lancaster at New Years!
Not at all a bad idea. A wet wipe wouldn’t hurt either! Actually, it mostly is just eerie – right out of Alfred Hitchcock.
I forgot the Tomato Festival in Washington Boro, PA. Unfortunately, it’s not much of a festival, but certainly one of you very creative writers could make up one that would be much better. I think the acidity of tomatoes would hide a poison pretty well.
These all sound like great events. The Crow Festival would be a good tie in.
Emmitsburg, MD has a charming Halloween parade featuring trick or treaters of all ages, the Volunteer Fire Company band, and the police chief. I may have been the back end of a horse for it one year…
Another great potential clue! Who was the back end of the horse?
I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. There are lots of smaller towns in the metropolitan area so there are always events going on somewhere. There are two that I can think of that are a little different. Grapefest is held in Grapevine, Texas. It is a weekend celebrating various wineries in the area. The other is Peachfest, which is held in Weatherford, Texas. It is a celebration of everything peach!
Those both sound fabulous!
I love lights and here in Dubuque, Iowa they decorate a beautiful park. Each lighted display is sponsered by one of the stores in town but also an individual can make one of their own if they can weld and are artistic there are only a few of those. You enter at night and go thru a row of lights created like a bridge then some volunteers collect a donation and the money goes to the local group home for troubled teens and other groups that branch off that. You turn on your radio for the music and then drive the route . You must turn off your lights or the people in front of you can’t see very well. It is just amazing and I have been to it almost every year since I moved here from Ca in 2003. This really gets you into the holiday spirit which for people like myself that have families in another state need a kick in the rear sometimes. Not far from the park are some houses that are just beautifully decorated also that we drive by. This is of course the biggest event of the year besides the numerous chili cook-offs which my hubby enters the one that is sponsered by our church.
That sounds magical!
I’m drawing a blank on unique festivals I’ve attended. Maybe that’s one reason I enjoy cozies. I get to live vicariously through the books.
Some of your festivals include mud, which counts. In fact, I’m thinking about that sort of event being a launch for book 3 of the Garden Squad.
I always enjoy reading about mud runs! Almost as much fun as doing them.
And I hadn’t thought about them that way.
I live in Sacramento, California, but alas most of Sacramento’s festive community events (the Camellia Festival and the Jazz Festival among others) now are defunct.
However my little neighborhood (called River Park) has a very active community group which sponsors a monthly newsletter (hand-delivered to every resident’s stoop), a neighborhood watch (where volunteers drive through the neighborhood at night looking for malefactors and evil-doers), a neighborhood phone-tree so that everyone can be alerted fairly quickly if there is important, time-sensitive news that needs to be communicated to residents. They also sponsor clean-up days for our park and the adjoining beaches (our neighborhood butts up against the American River levee).
But our big celebration is on the Fourth of July. Things kick off early in the morning with a 5K race through the neighborhood. This is shortly followed by a parade. A local realtor always puts flags in the lawn of every home on the parade route, so things start out festively. Homeowners on the parade route often trim their lampposts with red, white, and blue streamers. The parade is led off by a fire engine from our neighborhood’s fire house and there is a big contingent of kids who’ve decorated their bicycles or wagons. A few festively festooned vintage autos and convertables follow and those are followed by anyone else who wants to participate.
After the parade, everyone gathers at the park for a picnic and the community group sponsors free hot dogs and sodas. A band plays music, and in some years there’s additional entertainment as well. Then everyone adjourns for fireworks. I live in a small cul-de-sac and the ten or so of us who live there gather and set off our safe-and-sane fireworks.
Finally, at 9:30 PM, everyone goes through one of the neighbor’s gates and stands on top of the levee to watch the big fireworks exhibition at the fairgrounds which is just across the river from us.
It’s really like something out of the 50’s, and wonderful to be a part of.
That sounds wonderful, and would be perfect in one of our books.
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