report from the front – Atlanta Book Festival

The second annual Atlanta Constitution Decatur Book Festival, presented by Dekalb Medical, was held on August 31 through September 2, 2007. As part of the Festival, the 16th Annual 2007 Atlanta Antiquarian Book Fair sponsored by the Georgia Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association was held.

Last year, the first year of the festival, 50,000 booklovers showed up to see 125 authors. This year, the crowd was larger, and 250 authors including a National Book Award winner, four Pulitzer Prize winners, a Caldecott winner, and Emmy winner, Two Country Music Association award winners, three James Beard Foundation Award winners and many other honored writers, showed up, including Robert Olen Butler, Charles Frazier, Kinky Friedman, among others.

The Decatur City Square was blocked off all weekend and tents were set up, that included a children’s parade, poetry slams, several bands, cooking demonstrations, food, beer and wine, and much more, all in celebration of the book. The Antiquarian fair featured 50 booksellers was held at the Conference Center, and opened Friday night and ran through Sunday night.

The three booksellers most responsible for running this years antiquarian fair were Jim McMeans, Ken Mallory, and Frank Walsh. 150 paid opening night, with three times that many got in using free passes. Saturday and Sunday were very well attended as well. The executive director of the festival, Daren Wang stopped by the antiquarian fair during setup and talked about how to make the festival even better next year.

I have not met nicer folks than those in Decatur and Atlanta. Across the aisle from my booth was Mike (Map Man) Slicker, Lighthouse Books (St. Petersburg, FL). I spent most of the fair being Mike’s “bag man”…..every time I looked over he was writing yet another invoice. It was also nice seeing all the booksellers representing Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana, Washington DC, Michigan, South Carolina, Chicago, and even a stray from Bainbridge Island, WA (yours truly).

It was a pleasure seeing more young people attend this festival, much more than normal. The young far outnumbering the old, with all sharing great enthusiasm for the book. The Holiday Inn, which hosted the Antiquarian fair, has 184 rooms and the fair blocked out 124, but the hotel was sold out and 75-100 others were sent to other hotels nearby.

Many nice restaurants all around the festival made for satisfaction, and, what with all the authors, all the wonderful folks in the area, all the booksellers, and the good weather, it was a very positive experience, and this festival can only improve in the years to come.

The Atlanta/Decatur area boasts some fine institutions of higher education as well, that added to the book fever, like Emory University, Agnes Scott College, Georgia State University, Morris Brown College, Morehouse College, Sanford-Brown Institute, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Lanier Technical College, Chattahoochee Tech, Kennesaw State University, and scores of others. Next year book early, and be sure to visit this website:

Ed Smith
Ed Smith Books
Bainbridge Island, WA 98110

photography by Earl Johnson, Lotus Publications


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