LOWELL -- Jack Kerouac may have died long ago, but the annual celebrations of his birthday go on in the city he called home in his youth.
Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Treasurer Steve Edington said the organization has partnered with a wide range of community groups for this year's celebration.
"This year, we are acting as largely a catalyst for other sectors in the community that have really taken the initiative in honoring Kerouac, and we're really glad to play that kind of a role," Edington said.
Despite LCK taking a slightly different role this time around, the group's president, Judith Bessette, said this weekend's activities mirror the structure of past celebrations.
For the first time, Pollard Memorial Library will hold a marathon reading of Kerouac's "On The Road" this Saturday as part of the festivities.
Sean Thibodeau, Pollard's coordinator of community planning, and Bridget Cooley, the community planning librarian, took on organizing the nearly 12-hour reading after last year's marathon reading of the much shorter Kerouac novel, "Satori in Paris."
"On The Road" is three times the size, Thibodeau said. In scheduling it, he took notes from the New Bedford Whaling Museum's 22-year tradition of live-reading the much-longer "Moby Dick."
Thibodeau said he'd love it if the "On The Road" marathon became as long-standing a tradition.
"We want this to grow and be an interesting kind of attraction for Lowell -- not only to get people in from the outside, but to get people here doing something active to celebrate Kerouac's legacy," he said.
Musician Dana Colley of the Boston-based bands Morphine and Vapors of Morphine will kick off the marathon in the library's Kerouac Corner with a saxophone invocation just before noon before he reads the opening passage of the novel.
The reading will stay at the library until it goes "on the road" to Gallery Z, on Market Street, around 4 p.m.
The reading will travel again down Market Street about 8 p.m., to UnchARTed, where it will wrap up around 11:30 p.m.
Food and drink will be available at the two gallery legs of the reading. Those who donate to the event's main sponsor, the Pollard Memorial Library Foundation, will receive limited edition pins, T-shirts and tote bags.
Thibodeau said a number of guest readers have signed on for 5-to-10-minute spots, including Lowell National Historical Park Superintendent Celeste Bernardo, state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, City Councilors Ed Kennedy and Karen Cirillo, and groups from Lowell High School, UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College.
Local playwright and actor Jerry Bisantz of Image Theater Company will perform the signature finale of the book that Kerouac read on "The Steve Allen Show" in 1959.
Want to get in on the adventures of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty? Visit www.pollardml.org/events/marathon to sign up for a spot.
Among the other festivities for Lowell Celebrates Kerouac:
Disembodied Poetics: A Night of Music and Poetry to Celebrate Jack's 96th birthday
Friday, 8 p.m.
The Hearing Room, 119 Chelmsford St.
A mix of poets and musicians (or both) will perform in celebration of Kerouac's 96th birthday. Among them are Jane Boxall, Rick Breault, Eliot Cardineaux, Stephanie Marie Germaine, Scott Getchell, Masada Jones, Christos Koulendros, John Voigt and Walter Wright.
Opening reception for Collage of a City
Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Ayer Lofts Gallery, 172 Middle St.
Aloysius Productions presents a photographic journey through Lowell from a poet's-eye view, featuring work by writer and director Jonathan Stevens and photographer Raysam Donkoh-Halm, with a poetry reading from 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.themerrimackfilm.com.
"I Am the Revolutionary: Young Jack Kerouac"
Sunday, 2 p.m., Lowell National Historical Park Visitor's Center, 246 Market St.
Biographer Paul Maher will read from and discuss his latest work, which explores Kerouac's early years in Lowell and his journey to New York City and across America as he searches for his voice as a writer and artist and becomes a leader of the Beat Generation.
This weekend isn't the end of the celebration. It will continue next week -- and into next year.
For the rest of March, April and May, the Greater Lowell Community Foundation will host an exhibition of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival posters from 1988 to 2017. An opening reception, to be held Thursday, March 15, from 5 to 7:30 p.m., at 100 Merrimack St., second floor, will be open to the public. To schedule other showings, contact Bessette at email@example.com or 978-996-9935.
In October, LCK will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Kerouac Commemorative.
And over the next year, Merrimack Repertory Theatre will be working on a stage production based on Kerouac's "The Haunted Life," to premiere in March 2019.
MRT Artistic Director Sean Daniels is adapting the novel, left unfinished by Kerouac and edited by UMass Lowell associate professor Todd Tietchen with letters and other materials at Kerouac's estate, for a live performance.
Daniels said the book, which explores the relationship of a father and son based on Kerouac's own relationship with his father, feels like it could have been written today. In the book, set in the 1940s, Peter Martin struggles with his father's feeling that America has lost its greatness because of immigrants coming to the country. It explores connecting with and learning to love someone who shares different political views, Daniels said.
There's also the letter-writing campaign that Lowell Celebrates Kerouac is embarking on to support past member Dean Contover's efforts to get the U.S. Postal Service to create a Kerouac postage stamp for the writer's 100th birthday in 2022. As part of this campaign, Bessette will have a canvas scroll petition for community members and visitors to sign at the LCK team reading during the "On The Road" marathon Saturday at Gallery Z. The scroll will later travel to designated area galleries and establishments for others to sign.
Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.