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Hot tales, cool sails on waterfront

By Stephen Chupaska

Publication: The Day

Published July 25. 2010 4:00AM

New London - Amid all the children's authors, singers and mighty ships to tour, the most popular attraction at this year's Fish Tales, Tugs and Sails held Saturday in the Waterfront Park was perhaps a firehose sprinkler set up on City Pier by the fire department.

Yes, it was hot, it was humid, but for kids and parents alike, the day-long festival was also a good time.

"The people here have been really great and so friendly," said August Edwards, of Moosup, an author of three books.

Organized by New London Main Street, the free Fish Tales, Tugs and Sails, which began in 2006 as a three-hour festival nestled on City Pier on a Sunday, has now expanded to seven hours and stretched nearly the length of Waterfront Park.

The festival kicked off at 11 a.m. with a "pirate parade" of kids and adults in buccaneer garb that made its way from Custom House Pier to City Pier in time for a concert by Captain Papillion the Pirate, who was visiting these shores from New Orleans.

Nine children's authors from around New England gave special story hours in the hopes of reaching new audiences.

Jerry Pollota, a Boston-based author of mostly non-fiction books aimed at teaching kids the alphabet, said it was his first time at the festival, though he's no stranger to the area.

"I've spoken at schools in Groton and Stonington," he said.

Pollota remarked the children's literature business is going through several changes with the advent of electronic reading devices such as the Kindle and iPad.

"It's an atom bomb in the industry," Pollota said. "In the past you had Dr. Seuss books with two colors."

Pollota said electronic books can allow authors to write longer books, rather than the industry standard 32 pages.

Two tug boats, the Patricia Ann and John Paul from Thames Tugboat Co., were docked at Custom House Pier, and the Mystic Whaler and Peacemaker sailing ships were available for tours.

Local children's music artist Steve Elci shared with the crowd his own childhood memories of the carousel at Ocean Beach Park, before launching into a song about it.

The festival also included more than 30 vendors selling everything from arts and crafts and T-shirts and a few local authors with stacks of books ready to read.

New London's Sgott Mackenzie, the author and illustrator of the "The Giant Squid and the Seagull," said the best part of Fish Tales, Tugs and Sails is that he always meets someone interesting.

"I leave here inspired," Mackenzie said.

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