New London festival highlights literature, waterfront
New London — The highlight of Fish Tales, Tugs, Sails & Rails, at least for three little girls who went to the waterfront festival Saturday with their grandfather, was meeting Ariel.
Yes, Disney's famous Little Mermaid was among the celebrities at the annual nautical and literary event, which attracted hundreds of families and readers to Waterfront Park.
"She signed a card for us,'' said Allahna Beddoe, 8, who attends Harbor School. She and her cousins from Norwich, Clarimar Lopez, 8, and Mairim Lopez, 9, were smitten with Ariel, who lounged daintily on Amistad Pier.
But the girls, who all like to read chapter books and want to grow up to be singers, dancers, hairdressers, nail stylists, veterinarians, magicians or models, also liked creating their own bookmarkers and picking up sea life in the Sea Critter Tank.
They filled plastic bags with freebies like water bottles, "Noah's Puzzle" book, stickers and small banners with their names spelled out in nautical letters.
They also took a train ride on a Thomas the Tank Engine miniature tram and visited the real train engines and baggage cars at the Amtrak 40th Anniversary Exhibit Train and Chuggington Depot, which was stopped at Union Station.
The children's book festival was only on Saturday, but the Amtrak exhibit continues today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
They especially enjoyed a mist of water spraying across the cement promenade, rigged from a fire hydrant, compliments of the New London Fire Department.
"We came last year and it was educational and fun,'' said Basil Lodge, the girls' grandfather. "It's still educational, and I think it was even better."
That was good news for Renee Fournier of Mitchell College, one of the co-founders of the event, which was first held in 2006.
"I think this was one of our best years,'' Fournier said as the festival wound down Saturday afternoon.
There was a steady stream of visitors crossing the railroad tracks at the Custom House and at the train station, she said.
Nationally known authors read from their books, under a tent where children sat on rug squares, listening.
One of the authors was Uri Shulevitz, who has been writing children's books since 1963 and has won awards for his illustrations.
"He is really fabulous. You can't get any better than that,'' said Leon Archibald, the children's book buyer at Bank Square Books, who was selling copies of books from all the featured writers.
The free event also included tugboats and sailboats for exploring, an arts & crafts show, a book collection table for New London Youth Affairs' lending program and lots of other children's activities.
It was produced by New London Main Street, the Public Library of New London, Mitchell College, Michael's Dairy and New London Youth Affairs.
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