AMERICAN PUBLIC GARDENS ASSOCIATION
2020 VIRTUAL CONFERENCE
JUNE 25 - JULY 9 2020

Bringing Books to Life, Myriad Botanical Gardens
Program Excellence Award

Step through a giant keyhole into The Secret Garden. Take a wild rumpus with Max and his merry monsters from Where the Wild Things Are. Sit beside Piglet and Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood. These classics and more are charmingly recreated with local painters, sculptors and storytellers for the delightful Bringing Books to Life festival at Myriad Botanical Gardens in Oklahoma City.

As a public space in downtown Oklahoma City, the Gardens are a much-loved and accessible public garden that contributes to quality of life for all regardless of socioeconomic constraints. By leaving the Gardens free and open, a broader audience is able to enjoy our gardens, special plant collections and the many educational and culturally diverse programs offered. However, this inclusive model eliminates opportunities for consistent admission revenue and challenges us to make membership meaningful and valuable.

With this in mind, and one-time funding from the Junior League, Gardens CEO Maureen Heffernan launched Bringing Books to Life in 2013, an annual literary celebration set in the Children's Garden. We transform the garden into a magical world based on a classic children's book with a garden or horticultural theme. This festival has become an anticipated late spring tradition for thousands of families who look forward to walking through our re-imagined spaces brought to life.

Literacy components are woven throughout the festival with storytelling, scavenger hunts, pull quotes, hands-on activities and other interactive educational opportunities as well as theatrical and musical performances based on the book.

Since the festival’s inception we have partnered with Metropolitan Library System to promote literacy and summer reading at the festival via story times, library card sign-up and mobile circulation. We work with several institutions to reach a broad audience, including the Oklahoma City Thunder whose players promote literacy throughout the community.

With members receiving free admission for the 10-day event, we sell twice as many memberships at the festival than during the remainder of the season. The festival serves as a development vehicle for our organization, contributing more than $65,000 to our $4.5 million overall budget and offers meaningful opportunities for member, volunteer and donor engagement. More than 40,000 guests have enjoyed this festival to date and each year volunteers contribute an average of 1,000 festival hours.

We reach out to under-served populations by inviting organizations to attend the festival for free. Hundreds of children from these groups, including the Boys and Girls Club and Positive Tomorrows, an elementary school for homeless children, have been able to experience the festival.

While we are a nonprofit organization with annual revenue goals, we never want to lose sight of our mission to enhance the education, aesthetic, cultural and economic development of Oklahoma City. Bringing Books to Life ensures we do that. Each year thousands of families experience the wonder and excitement of reading in a unique and immersive festival that promotes children’s interest in plants and gardening with artistic creations that spark their imagination.

Or, watch this video on YouTube here!