Monday, September 13, 2010

The Decatur Book Festival: Variation on a theme

Bookzilla grunts, "BOOOOKS"
Labor Day Weekend 2010: A couple of days filled with beer, barbeque, the great outdoors and lots of chillin’ out. An extra day off for those of us who labor for five days out of all but a few weeks of every year of our working lives.

In Atlanta, five years ago, the folks of the well-read and well-written Atlanta Journal-constitution decided to sponsor the first ever Decatur Book Festival. Now, five festivals later, Decatur (one of Atlanta’s thriving arts neighborhoods) is still hosting what has become the largest independent book festival in the country.
Labor Day. Book Festival. Whoever it was who was drinking that night five or so years ago and said, “Hey, let’s take the barbeque out of the Labor Day equation and replace it with books,” thank you. This new equation really rocks!

Meeting with poet, Alice Shapiro
Decatur’s town square and old-fashioned community feel is the spot that hits the spot for such a festival. With established and successful venues within reasonable walking distance of the town square, the festival supports poetry and prose readings, keynote presentations by internationally-recognized authors, an emerging authors stage, a fun and lively children’s stage, and good ol’ Southern-style story telling with enough room for a kids’ parade and a gigantic blow-up version of the festival mascot, BookZilla! Agnes Scott College hosted writing workshops and the keynote address by Jonathan Franzen; the popular coffeehouse, Java Monkey, featured surprisingly avant-garde poetry readings and Eddie’s Attic staged all-day events highlighted by a story telling session in the style of NYC’s non-profit, The Moth, and a singer-songwriter gathering around the stories and life of Eudora Welty. Famous in the folk and Americana music circles, Kate Campbell, Claire Holley and Atlanta’s own Caroline Herring shared conversation and some of their songs to a happily-packed house.

In the midst of and surrounding all of this fun and more, were booths galore (over 600) filled with books and authors and publishers and independent bookstores. Some activities were indoors, but most were outdoors, in keeping with the traditional Labor Day holiday setting.

So how does the beer fit into this new equation? It’s the location, location, location. Another plus for having the festival in Decatur is that the square is surrounded by a variety of restaurants, pubs and outdoor cafes to feed and whet the whistle of this year’s 70,000 plus festival attendees.

Choose from Eddie’s Attic with their burgers and sweet potato fries at the Rooftop Grill; the culinary cutting edge tapas for a midnight snack at The Iberian Pig; a cup of fancy Joe or a glass of wine at The Java Monkey or just a pint (or two) of some of the best hand-crafted beers in the country at the Brick Store Pub. Oh, and while you’re sitting under the umbrellas at the pub, you may be lucky enough to see a fishnet stocking-wearing unicyclist accompanied by a Poirot-like-mustachioed accordion player.

Now THAT is not your typical Labor Day weekend, but it’s one heck of a great variation on a theme!

A few links for planning your next Labor Day weekend at the Decatur Book Festival:  (pork cheek tacos--yuummm)