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'Books spawn change,' Times' Austin Beutner says to open Festival of Books

Festival of Books kicks off on a 'Happy' note from USC Trojan Marching Band

Dozens of people wandered the USC campus a half hour before the 10 a.m. official opening Saturday, stopping by booths and scouring maps to prepare for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Many stopped to snap a selfie with Tommy Trojan as they waited for the kickoff.

"The kids love the marching band," says Kathleen Lambird of Culver City. "It’s like the main event for us."

Lambird and her family were excited when the USC Trojan Marching Band made its entrance. She bounced her daughter Agnes on her shoulders as the band played fight songs and Pharrell William’s hit "Happy."

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During the ceremony, members of the band and five cheerleaders held up one hand, making a “V” for victory sign. The crowd quickly mirrored the performers on stage, shouting their support for the Trojans.

Times Publisher Austin Beutner and USC President C.L. Max Nikias greeted the crowd and predicted that this year would see record attendance at the festival, bringing in more than 150,000 people.

"Books spawn change in society, they spawn Oscar-winning movies, they spawn community," Beutner said. "Today we celebrate community and the chance to draw together many, many people from all walks of life in Los Angeles to start a conversation."

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Nikias echoed Beutner and welcomed everyone to the campus.

"We believe there’s no better place to host this festival," Nikias said. "For the next two days this weekend, I’ve got news for you: You’re Trojans."

The kickoff to the 20th festival, sponsored by The Times, left the crowd feeling energized and ready to explore and visit the authors, poets and artists that filled the campus. 

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When the band wrapped up its final song, after heeding cries for an encore, the crowd scattered, including Miriam Silva, 13, who was at the feistval for the second year with her classmates.

"When I come here, I’m just amazed because there’s different people here and it’s fun," Silva said. "People usually think of books as boring … but when I come here I just want to read more."

Check out the Festival of Books schedule for this weekend.

MORE FROM THE FESTIVAL OF BOOKS:

Patton Oswalt's insane addiction -- to films

How authors tackle truthfulness in memoirs

Rocker (and memoirist) Billy Idol pumps up the crowd

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