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Louisville Free Public Library’s How-To Festival offers a chance to learn new skills

One of the yearly favorites at the How-To Festival is a session on raising goats in urban environments. The special guests draw in large crowds hoping to get a pet in.
One of the yearly favorites at the How-To Festival is a session on raising goats in urban environments. The special guests draw in large crowds hoping to get a pet in.

Want to learn about raising chickens? Operating a HAM radio? Or working a yo-yo like a pro? The Louisville Free Public Library’s How-To Festival has experts on all those things and more.

“Libraries are all about lifelong learning,” said LFPL director Lee Burchfield.

The library has plenty of books about the different things being taught at Saturday’s How-To Festival, but Burchfield said the hands-on approach expands the ways people can learn.

“The How-To Festival started as a way to bring all of this together under one roof, on one day to just celebrate all of the different fun, cool, creative, entertaining, economical, and in some cases, very beneficial things that one can learn throughout the year at the library,” Burchfield said.

Terry Gibson is a master gardener. He’s been teaching people about the best ways to plant backyard vegetable gardens since the first How-To Festival in 2013.

“The best description of the How-To festival is chaos — mass, organized chaos,” Gibson said.

His 45-minute presentation focuses on tomatoes: the history of them, different types of tomatoes, the best-growing conditions and how to protect them from pests.

Gibson is passionate about backyard gardening and said helping foster a crop of new gardeners is one of his favorite parts about the festival.

“I want to excite people and inspire people with my enthusiasm for growing their own tomatoes, growing their own food,” Gibson said. “I’ll be successful if I can just transmit that inspiration and enthusiasm to them.”

In his years presenting at the How-To Festival, he said attendees have returned to update him about their gardens, show off their harvests and get more tips.

Introducing people to new skills — from practical to pure fun — is a main goal of the festival, organizers said.

John Ronayne owns Bluegrass Homebrew and comes to the festival to teach folks how to go from “grains to glass” in the comfort of their own homes.

“Making beer and drinking beer is fun, but being able to kind of do it as part of a broader community is a lot more fun,” Ronayne said. “So to me, that's what's great about teaching and sharing knowledge with others.”

For many of the presenters, it’s that aspect of getting to share information about their crafts that keeps them coming back to the How-To Festival.

Lyshanna Cunningham owns ShannaCakes.

During her session at the How-To Festival, Cunningham will demonstrate how to decorate cupcakes using buttercream icing.

Before she became a baker she worked in higher education. That’s where she developed her love for sharing knowledge.

“If people didn't share, then how would other people be able to grow?” Cunningham said. “It's the only way for there to be growth and so I believe when you have a gift, you're supposed to share it with other people.”

LFPL has also taught institutions across the country how to have their own festivals, Burchfield said.

Burchfield said the Public Library Association adapted the program at its conferences.

“They have a How-To Festival in the exhibit hall that helps other libraries learn how to put on a How-To Festival but also is an opportunity for presenters at PLA to teach people about something,” Burchfield said.

Burchfield said the spread of the How-To Festival connects back to the original purpose of the event, to create a space that supports lifelong learning.

The How-To Festival is May 13 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Main Library, 301 York St.

Louisville Public Media is a media sponsor of the How-To Festival . LPM receives support from the Louisville Free Public Library.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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