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Committee Gives Bemelmans Festival Favorable Recommendation

Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline

Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline

OSWEGO, NY – Plans to stage the Bemelmans Festival next month (May 12-20) at the Fort Ontario Complex received a favorable recommendation at Monday night Physical Services Committee.

The festival is to celebrate the 100th anniversary of World War I and 1917 deployment of Ludwig Bemelmans, author of Madeline Books, as a Private at Fort Ontario.

Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline
Ludwig Bemelmans’ Madeline

At the core of the festival will be a new comedy by Rick Sivers, “My War With The United States,” adapted from Bemelmans own hilarious account of his exploits while stationed at Fort Ontario in 1917.

“We’ve been planning this event for more than a year,” said Sivers, president of the Oswego Players. “We didn’t do a lot of publicity simply because we didn’t know how far we were going to get.”

The Shineman Foundation recently awarded the Oswego Players (in collaboration with six other arts organizations) a grant to promote the festival.

A variety of activities are scheduled through the time of the festival including:

•    A walking tour of buildings still standing at the fort mentioned by Bemelmans in his book, “My War With The United States” on May 17 at 7 p.m.
•    The world premiere of the adaptation of the book for the stage by the Oswego Players, on May 13, 14, 19, 20, 21
•    KiteFest
•    A jazz concert
•    Children’s parade
•    A gallery exhibit at the Art Association of Oswego
•    Ice cream social

Organizers are requesting a partial road closure of Barbara Donahue Drive and permission to install vertical banners on the Bridge Street Bridge. The banners would be similar in size to the existing banners.

In 1917, Ludwig Bemelmans was 19 years old; he was stationed as a Private at Fort Ontario.

At the time, Fort Ontario was the largest Army hospital installation in the United States with the 19-year-old Bemelmans serving as an orderly in hospital units and at other locations around the fort.

He hadn’t even thought of becoming a writer or a painter; that would come later when in 1939 Bemelmans’ first copyrighted the Madeline story. By the end of the 1950s, the Madeline stories were everywhere.

While many people may recognize the name of Ludwig Bemelmans as the author of the beloved children’s book series, Madeline, very few know that he also wrote books for adults, at least one Hollywood movie script, and was known as an accomplished painter on the Paris and New York art scene as well.

Sivers said he wasn’t sure just how big of an event the festival would be. However, given the immense popularity of Bemelmans’ books, it has the potential to be a large event, he added.

Bemelmans kept a diary while stationed at the fort.

“He turned that diary into a book (‘My War With The United States’). His daughter holds the rights to all of his materials. She gave me permission to turn those pages into a play,” Sivers told the councilors.

Art Show Planned

In celebration of Bemelmans’ deployment to Fort Ontario in 1917, the Art Association of Oswego will host an art show of local artwork showing Madeline at a location in Oswego.

Entries for the show are open to persons of all ages in a variety of mediums. The show will run from May 13-21 in the gallery of the Oswego Civic Arts Center in conjunction with the Bemelmans Festival.

All artwork submitted can be no larger than 16’ x 20” mounted on poster board no larger than 18” x 24.”

Information that needs to be included on the back of the artwork includes: name, address, phone number, artist age (optional). Completed artwork should be delivered to the Art Association in the Oswego Civic Arts Center on May 6 from 10 a.m. to noon or May 7, 1-4 p.m.

For more information about the Art Show contact Laurie Kester of the Art Association, 315-343-6599.

The Bemelmans Festival is being organized by the Art Association of Oswego, Oswego Players, Safe Haven Museum, Friends of Fort Ontario, Fort Ontario State Historic Site, Children’s Museum of Oswego and Oswego YMCA.

For more information about the Bemelmans Festival, contact Rick Sivers, 315-312-0111.

The full council will consider the request next week.