The USC Trojan Marching Band belted out tunes, the USC Song Girls energized the crowd and USC President Max Nikias welcomed people to the "celebration of the written word" as the 2013 L.A. Times Festival of Books kicked off Saturday at the USC stage.

Nikias talked about the connected history between USC and the Times as the "two oldest non-religious institutions in Los Angeles." He also told the crowd that it was a Times sports writer who first referred to USC athletes as the "Trojans."

People cheered and clapped along with the band as they performed pop songs as well as the familiar USC fight song, after which Nikias, L.A. Times Publisher and Chief Executive Officer Eddy Hartenstein and L.A. Times President and Chief Operating Officer Kathy Thompson took the stage to welcome all.

FULL COVERAGE: FESTIVAL OF BOOKS

As part of the kickoff, there was an awards ceremony for a coloring contest open to students within the USC family of schools as well as local elementary schools. Contestants were judged on originality and creativity.

First-place winner was third-grader Casey Martinez, who won a $500 Barnes and Noble gift card. Honorable mentions went to kindergartner Emili Sandoval, first-grader Leonardo Rios and fourth-graders Brian Jae, Alysha Boone and Anthony Cuellar. Each student won a $100 Barnes and Noble gift card.