News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 2, 2013

Mark Twain helps to launch Big Read Party

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The smell of baked beans and catfish haunted the library’s halls Friday night, as readers gathered for a night with Mark Twain.

The Vigo County Public Library kicked off its annual Big Read Party with “Sawyer’s Soiree,” a night dedicated to the discussion of Mark Twain’s classic “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

Library director Kristi Howe said the turnout of about 110 was good to see.

“It’s pretty impressive,” she said, noting the last library where she served also hosted this book last year in conjunction with its own river activities.

Library community relations specialist Chris Schellenberg said this year’s Big Read program focuses on Mark Twain as a tie-in to the 2013 Year of the River festivities. Much of Twain’s writing centers on his life around the Mississippi River and makes for a good match, she remarked.

“This year it was an easy choice with the book,” she said.

A free showing of “Tom and Huck” will be presented today at the Community Theatre, and next Thursday the play “Sawyerland” will be presented in the Marshall Public Library in Illinois. Other community events celebrating “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” will be hosted throughout the Wabash Valley through April.

“This is a regional event and all are welcome,” Schellenberg said.

Friday evening’s program featured food by Azar’s Catering, including “Aunt Polly’s Potato Soup,” “Huck Finn’s Catfish Fingers” and “Becky’s Baked Beans” with music by the Crossroads Bass.

Dave Ehlert of Branson Superstar served in the role of Samuel Clemens himself, known to the world as Mark Twain. Dressed in a white suit with red tie, he sported the wild white hair of his character and spoke with a southern affect. A smokeless, vapor cigar topped off the costume.

As part of the night, Ehlert read and discussed his work with participants, pointing out he created a very diverse collection of writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

“The one I was proudest of is the one you wouldn’t imagine,” he said, explaining the favorite to be a biography he wrote about Joan of Ark under a pseudonym. Regarding “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” he said he hoped for a good discussion. “And I’m hoping for some reaction. I don’t care if it’s good or bad, as long as there’s no violence involved.”

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or