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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Edible Book Festivals at Academic Libraries: Awards and prizes

A guide to planning and hosting an edible book festival on your campus, drawing on the experiences of the University of Illinois Library.

The Corn Ultimatum

By Rachael Weber, 2011

Brownie Sprout Hand Book

By Christine Jenkins, 2011.

Prize categories

A little competition adds spice to the event.  If you decide to award prizes, it's good to announce the categories in advance.

Here are some categories that have been used at various edible book events:

  • Best Depiction of a Classic
  • Best Visual Presentation
  • Most Appetizing
  • Least Appetizing
  • Funniest/Punniest
  • Best Entry Based on Book for Children or Teens
  • Best Collaborative Creation
  • Highest Literary Merit
  • Best Entry on [the year's theme]
  • Best Use of Chocolate [or another ingredient]
  • Most Realistic
  • Best Fiction Book / Best Non-fiction Book
  • Most Nutritious

Another approach is to have very broad prize categories:

  • Top Honors: Culinary
  • Top Honors: Literary
  • Top Honors: Artistic

 

Judges

Celebrity judges are a fun addition to many edible book events.  Important people from campus or the wider community can help attract entrants and viewers, as well as strengthen relations with partners.  For greater objectivity in the judging, have more than one judge.  Ideally, judges will have some connection to books, food, or art.

Example:   The University of Illinois recruits three judges for its Edible Book Festivals. An odd number prevents the awkward possibility of a tie.  Judges receive no payment, but parking spaces are reserved for them.

Past judges have included:

  • Local pastry chefs and bakery owners
  • Well-known regional artist
  • Retired public library director
  • Bookbindery owner
  • Head of the library's Preservation department
  • Director of the campus Latino/Latina cultural center
  • Outreach director of the regional foodbank
  • Manager of the student farm
  • Director of the university art museum
  • Retired art professor and public radio commentator

 

The People's Choice

If you don't want judges, you don't need them.  Let the people vote instead! 

Keep the voting process simple.  One option is to give each viewer a small piece of paper on which to write their favorite entry's title and then place it in a centrally located ballot box or basket.  Or you could have a pre-printed ballot, if you want viewers to vote in several categories.  If you're going to announce the winners at the event, be sure to have enough volunteers to speedily count the votes. 

Another option is to place an identifying card near each entry.  Then give each viewer one or more stickers and ask them to affix them to the card of their favorite entry.  It will be easy to see at a glance which one is most popular.

Example:  At the University of Illinois, there's a People's Choice Award in addition to the awards selected  by the celebrity judges.  The placard and sticker method is used to determine the People's Choice.  When entrants arrive with their entries, they fill out a card with the work's title and their name and place the card next to their entry.  When viewers arrive, each one is given two dot-shaped stickers--because it's too hard to pick just one favorite.  While the judges are announcing their awards, volunteers check the cards to identify the People's Choice Award, which is announced last. 

 

 

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