Thursday, June 30, 2011

CITL 2nd Annual Festival - A Huge Success!

A blink of an eye and it's already been 2 years since we first launched the program back in June 2009! To celebrate our 2 year anniversary, the Chess in the Library organization hosted its 2nd Annual Festival at the North York Central Library. There were over 150 people coming from each corner of the city to join the festivities, including participants, parents, volunteers, librarians, sponsors, donors and the media. With 76 participants representing 8 different libraries and 23 volunteers to help organize the event, this festival was the most successful event yet! However, not everything went so smoothly as we wished...

June 25, 2011, 11:30 am: The majority of the participants, parents, special guests and media were already on the second floor of the library, waiting for check-in, which starts at 11:45am. Leading the group of volunteers, I walked up to the second floor after a successful election in the morning, feeling as if the day couldn't get better. Well, at that very moment...our dreams were almost crushed. Suddenly there comes a librarian, whom I've never ever met before and for all I know, she was never involved in any CITL matters. She bluntly tells me that we are only able to enter the room at 1pm, despite the fact that our booking was for noon.

Imagine - a floor packed with 150 kids, parents, guests and media waiting to be served. We've got 30 minutes to do the check-in and setup everything for the opening ceremony, previously scheduled to commence at 12:15pm. Right when your anxiety level is at its heights, your mind is buzzing with thoughts of all the people waiting and bumping into you, a stranger just pops up and tells you that the event shall be delayed for an hour and that that "this is not debatable". For the first time in my life, I didn't know what to do at all.

I thought about all the happy kids anticipating the festival and all the volunteers who surrounded and depended on me. I knew that whatever I do, I can't let myself fall apart right then and right there. But I am one lucky girl, blessed to have a such an amazing volunteer team who told me: "Yuanling, we've got your back. Don't worry,don't worry...everything will turn out just fine."

So I cleared my head and thought of possible solutions to the problem. Crowd control is very important when you organize a large event like this. I grabbed a few desks and told the volunteers to start the check-in process ASAP. To ensure that we wouldn't create a mess, I told the participants to form 3 straight lines for check-in, one for each section. There were over 150 people waiting for us and we must try to do everything according to the plan. At the very least, we kept the bad news within the volunteers for as long as possible, or else we would've really lost control of the people. Meanwhile, we printed a copy of the email with the promise that room setup for our event will start at noon, hoping that it would clear the misunderstandings. And so it did, with the help of Tom from NYCL.

Regardless, I know that this post should be a report on the festival but I wanted to share this story with all of you today because of several reasons. First of all, I've learned a life lesson that day - no matter what barriers come in your way, you've just got to keep moving forward. If you've done nothing wrong, then God will help you and luck will be on your side. Second of all, perhaps the majority of you who follows Chess in the Library thinks that it is an easy job to undertake - how hard is it to run a chess club in a local library, right? Well, now you know the things that I, as well as the volunteers at times, go through. It's not easy. Finally, it was at that very moment that something hit me - I, Yuanling, the Founder of the CITL, is no longer alone like she was on June 20, 2009. It was truly after this incident that I felt like a part of a big family, a family that would support you no matter what. So I want to give a big thank you to all the volunteers for joining CITL and giving me what I needed the most - moral support.

The big family of CITL volunteers. :)

Now let's get to the real report of the festival! The flow of the opening ceremony was done very smoothly, starting with a short clip (should be available on YouTube soon), speeches and ending with the announcement of the 2011 CITL Volunteer of the Year Award. I'd like to thank our special guests, Vivien Canning, Maurice Smith and GM Mark Bluvshtein for making their appearance and presenting the Volunteer of the Year nominees and award winners with certificates and trophies. To see what Mark has to say about the festival, check out his latest blog post:

Commencement of the opening ceremony - the white screen in the background is where we showed the video

The audience. All the volunteers are lined up on the right hand side of the wall, wearing the special CITL T-shirts!

Me welcoming everyone to the festival. :)

Michael Kleinman, the 2010-2011 CITL Vice President, says a few words to the audience.

Kevin Wu, the 2010-2011 CITL Executive Director, despite being the youngest member of the CITL Executive Board, has showed his capabilities as a leader in this organization.

Tom Maragos, NYCL librarian, is the one who saved the day! Honestly, without him, I really don't know whether we would have a happy ending that day. Thank you so much, Tom!

Maurice Smith, one of CITL's main donors, takes an hour out of his busy schedule to support the festival! Maurice said a few touching words on behalf of all CITL donors and sponors. Thank you Maurice!

Vivien Canning, the Branch Head of of the Humberwood Branch in Etobicoke, is one of the most enthusiastic librarians that I've ever met! Humberwood was one of CITL's very first locations and right now, it is our of the most successful locations! Thank you Vivien for always supporting us!

The six 2011 CITL Volunteer of the Year nominees with their certificates presented by Maurice and Vivien. Since Yuan Dai could not make it to the festival, Lennart (far right) received the certificate on behalf of Yuan.

GM Mark Bluvshtein announces the 2011 CITL Volunteer of the Year winners

So who won the award? I want to give a BIG congratulations to the 3 outstanding youths:

Gal Gross, winner of the 2011 CITL Most Dedicated Award
Jesse Feng, winner of the 2011 CITL Most Innovative Award
Yolanda Zhang, winner of the 2011 CITL Best Instructor Award

The media. Thanks to Bob Armstrong, we were able to get several media coverages for the festival.

After the opening ceremony, the team tournament began. Every participant wore a sticker with their library name on it - something new that we introduced this year to show team spirit! We had enough time to play a 4-round Swiss, far better than last year's 3-round Swiss.

a beautiful tournament sitea beautiful tournament site

The referees of the Grade 3 & Under section announces the pairings to the kids

Games in action - there were 2-3 volunteers taking the role of a referee in each section. They would ensure that the kids were playing again the right opponent and that the results were marked correctly.

The Open section in action

Cool chess kid - is he playing chess or poker? :)

Naeema Garcia, age 5, is one of the youngest contestants in the tournament. Her shirt says "cute by psycho" ^_^

In between the games, the participants could visit the puzzle booth set up by Hazel and Lennart and take a shot at some trivial questions such as "What colour is CITL's logo?". There were also a set of chess tactics for the participants to solve, ranging from super easy to super hard, with a total of 5 difficulty levels. For a full list of questions and answers for Hazel's puzzle contests, check out her latest blog post:

Hazel and her puzzle contest booth to solve this problem?

However, the activity that caught most people's eye was of course...the GIANT CHESS SET!!! :) Everyone has so much fun moving the pieces, which were almost the same height as some of the younger kids!
Let's see if you can play chess equally well on this gigantic board!

Another blink of an eye and the festival was over. It was time to present the awards to those who fought the hardest in front of the chess board! We gave out a total of 27 medals to the top 3 teams in each of the 3 sections (Grade 3, Grade 6 & Open), as well as 9 trophies for the top 3 finishers in each section. What's even more exciting is that this year, we bought a large annual trophy for the library team that won gold in the Open section. Not only will the library's name get engraved on the trophy, this winner library will keep the trophy on display for an entire year and until the next CITL Annual Festival.

On behalf of the organization, I want to give a special thank you to the Southam family, who was not able to make it to the festival this year. It was them who donated the beautifully designed marble-based trophies as well as the big annual trophy. Some of you may know the background story behind these trophies from last year's festival, but others may not. Todd Southam, the younger son of the family, was one of Canada's brightest and most promising chess players a few decades ago. During his chess career, he won numerous trophies and plaques from local tournaments to international ones. As a FIDE Master, he was not only his family's pride, but also Canada's. Unfortunately, he passed away at a very young age, leaving his family and the country in great sorrow. When the Southams heard about the Chess in the Library program back in the summer of 2009, they immediately donated all of Todd's trophies to us, thinking that Todd would be very happy to see his trophies redistributed to a new generation of young chess players. Today, all of the 18 trophies that belonged to Todd are now shining ever so brightly in different chess families located in each corner of the city, encouraging the kids to keep playing this royal game. And so, we named the trophies "The Todd Southam Award". Todd and his family's contribution to the chess community will always be remembered, and we really believe that up there in heaven, Todd smiled when he saw all of this happening.

The awards, donated by the Southam family, are ready to find a new home.

The North York Central team, volunteers and librarian were all super excited about winning the large annual trophy! Congratulations to team NYCL!

We gave out a total of 12 book prizes for the puzzle competition winners as well as the contest winners. All these books were donated by some very generous people, so thank you!

It's so sad when I realized that it was already over...*sigh*. However, we did get many emails from parents telling us what an amazing time their kids had and that was enough for us to feel reassured. All the time and effort put into this event was worth it. Although the event was only 5 hours long, we gave over 76 kids an amazing experience that will forever be a part of the wonderful memories of their childhood.

For more pictures on the CITL 2nd Annual Festival, check out our web album here. I will be posting the individual and team results shortly.

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