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Permanent parade of picture books coming to Arvig Park summer 2023

The Perham Area Public Library hosted a Picture Book Parade for two summers, and, after one year off, they'll be returning in 2023 with a more permanent installation.

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The pages of Ezra Jack Keats' picture book "Over in the Meadow" line the walking path in Arvig Park in 2020, when the library was utilizing temporary signs.
Perham Focus file photo
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The Perham Area Public Library
Perham Focus file photo

PERHAM — An outdoor walk with a story, a fun activity for all ages, will soon return to Perham in a more permanent fashion. Residents may be aware of this Perham Area Public Library project, and the fact that it was previously available for two summers. The Picture Book Parade in Arvig Park allows families to go for a stroll in the beautiful outdoors while simultaneously reading a picture book, spread by spread on signs lining the pathway.

While the library didn't hold this last summer, residents need not fret. It will be back for 2023 and hopefully for many years afterward with the installation of new signs on Arvig Trail.

"If we had a bad weather day, the (previous temporary) signs weren't really made to be out in high winds or rain storms," said librarian Susan Heusser-Ladwig. "And so then we'd have to go out and take them down or else we'd have to go out and pick up the pages as they flew around. Last summer, we kind of gave it a miss knowing that we were going to put in a permanent installation that would be better able to handle the weather in the future."

Foundations for the permanent signs were already installed along a stretch of the trail this fall — between a quarter to half a mile long, located alongside the soccer field near the parking lot — and the actual metal signs will be placed in spring 2023. The 24 signs will be attached to bases set in the concrete about 30 paces from one another, making them better able to withstand the summer weather. The laminated pages installed on the signs will also be covered with plexiglass to help protect the stories from the weather.

Though these signs are more permanent fixtures, they're also equipped for removal in the fall so public works can easily plow along the trail during snow season.

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The Perham water tower peaks above the trees near Arvig Trail
Perham Focus file photo

Heusser-Ladwig missed being able to supply her community with this activity, so she's excited to have a more permanent installation that will also take some strain off library workers. The first two summers the Picture Book Parade took place, the library was replacing the story once a week. This required the library to purchase multiple copies of the same book, disassemble the book carefully as to not damage the artwork, laminate all the pages, and set them up on the trail. Not only was this expensive, but it was also time-intensive for the staff.

To remove some of this strain, stories in the future will be on the trail for about two weeks or maybe a month, Heusser-Ladwig said. When the event returns is dependent on the weather and how quickly the snow clears up, but Heusser-Ladwig specified they want to make it available throughout summer.

"We were looking for different ideas for in the summertime," she said, reflecting on why the library first began to offer this activity. "We do a lot of children's programming — a lot of summer reading activities — so we were just looking for another way to incorporate a neat idea. And (a picture book walk) seemed to be a really good one because right now, there's been a lot of movement toward developing healthy activities in your life — getting outside and enjoying our beautiful summer weather. Doing more walking is always a good, healthy thing to develop in your life. And then, of course, we think reading and promoting children's books and family time out walking with a book was a great mix."

The first two years the library hosted the Picture Book Parade, they received plenty of positive community feedback. Heusser-Ladwig remembers seeing people come and use the field. She remembers hearing that people were going out weekly in order to read the new stories. She even remembers people making comments on Facebook, talking about just how much they loved the story and enjoyed the walk.

"We heard a lot of positive comments about it when we put the signs out," she recalled. "And so it's something that we wanted to continue. We didn't do it last summer, and I kind of felt like we should. So I'm looking forward to having the permanent signs."

The signs and stories are expensive. Heusser-Ladwig emphasized that this new installation wouldn't be possible without the help of those who donated toward the special projects endowment fund, grant funds administered through West Central Initiative, the city of Perham Parks Department and the Friends of the Library. For anyone interested in making a donation toward the library and/or its projects, go to their website at www.perhamlibrary.org. Checks made to one of the funds or directly to the library itself can be brought in person to the Perham Area Public Library.

"We're really appreciative to all those different organizations that helped make it come together," Heusser-Ladwig said.

Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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