The Decatur Book Festival brings together writers, publishers, book lovers and book sellers for a huge celebration in the Decatur Square over Labor Day weekend. First presented in 2006, the event has steadily grown to be one of the largest independent book festivals in the country.
There is a lot to read, see and hear at the festival, so planning ahead is key to making sure you see everything that interests you.
Here are our tips for how to plan for a fun, successful weekend and a look at the highlights of the 12th Decatur Book Festival.
How To Plan For The Weekend
Getting To The Festival
Several roads in and around the Decatur Square are closed the Friday afternoon through Sunday evening for the Decatur Book Festival. Check the festival map to see how to navigate the downtown Decatur area. If you’ll be driving, the City of Decatur has a map of parking deck and lot addresses, hours and prices.
If driving is not for you, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and the City of Decatur have free and secure bike parking in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse on North McDonough Street. From there organizers say all the events are within a seven-minute walking area.
MARTA also has a convenient stop right in the center of the festival at the Decatur Station on the train’s Blue Line.
What To Bring
Festival organizers say they expect a crowd of 80,000 people to attend the festival over the course of the weekend, so expect to wait in some lines. Plan for time outside—walking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat or visor could make your experience more enjoyable. Come armed with water to stay hydrated in the Atlanta heat. Attendance to the festival and all events are free, but if you plan to make purchases, having cash on hand could come in handy.
Decatur Book Festival Event Highlights
Opening Night Keynote And Kidnote Speakers On Sept. 1
Decatur Book Festival opens Friday night with discussions for adults and kids. The events are free, but tickets are required.
The keynote tackles the role of journalism in today’s ever-changing political world. The panel is made up of National Public Radio host Brooke Gladstone along with Carolyn Ryan, an editor with the New York Times, and Wesley Lowery, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter from The Washington Post. The event is at 8 p.m. at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.
The ‘kidnote’ address is given by Henry Winkler, who you might know as “The Fonz” from “Happy Days.” Together with his writing partner Lin Oliver, he writes the “Hank Zipzer” and “Here’s Hank” book series for young readers. Winkler’s event is at 5 p.m. at Decatur High School’s Performing Arts Center.
Author Event Schedule
This year’s event has 18 stages to accommodate more than 600 participating authors, and book sales and signings surround most of the readings and lectures. Themed stages include a children’s stage, food and cooking stage, emerging writers stage, teen stage, local poetry stage and more.
At times during the weekend there are more than 25 events scheduled simultaneously, so view the full schedule to plan out which authors you want to be sure to see.
For The Grown-Ups
The 2017 Judy Turner Prize winners tackle the topic of Atlanta’s urban development. Hannah Palmer, author of “Flight Path: A Search for Roots Beneath the World’s Busiest Airport,” and Mark Pendergrast, author of “City on the Verge: Atlanta and the Fight for America’s Urban Future,” will be presented with their award before they speak on the topic of “The Impact of Changing Atlanta” on Saturday at 1:45 p.m. at the Decatur Library.
For writers trying to get a foot into the business or those looking for something new, the Emerging Writers Pavilion is a space for self-published authors to get involved, promote their work and network with other authors.
For The Kids
Bookzilla, Decatur Book Festival’s book-loving lizard mascot, invites kids to join in the Children’s Parade as it winds from the Community Bandstand to the Children’s Stage to open the festivities on Saturday at 9:45 a.m. and Sunday at 11:45 a.m. Participants can line up 15 minutes ahead of the parade and meet the chosen grand marshals. Come dressed up for Saturday’s superhero-themed march, or bring a musical instrument to make some noise at Sunday’s parade.
Curious who Lemony Snicket is? The author of both “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “All The Wrong Questions” makes his first visit to the festival Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Children’s Stage.
Two anticipated appearances at the Teen Stage are from comic book writers Leigh Bardugo, author of “Wonder Woman: Warbringer,” and Jason Reynolds, author of “Miles Morales: Spider Man,” on Saturday at 2 and 5 p.m. They will address how they created fresh, reimagined versions of classic superheroes.
DBF Street Fair
The festival’s DBF Street Fair has more than 100 exhibitor booths. Visitors can peruse books for sale and learn more about local libraries as well as mingle among local merchants and businesses.
Local Visual and Performing Arts
art|DBF is the section of the book festival where local performing arts organizations get to shine. This year’s art|DBF is presented by ArtsATL and spotlights Decatur and metro Atlanta’s vibrant arts and culture community. Expect live performances and exhibits as well as representatives mingling at exhibitor booths.
The Book As Art exhibit, an annual event, has an “Illuminated” theme this year and is on view in the Periodicals Gallery at the Decatur Library. The works on display encompass a wide selection of inventive artist books in many forms. The exhibit has extended hours during the book festival.
The Historic DeKalb Courthouse sits in the center of the action, and its exhibits range from local history to a feature on mid-century ranch houses and decorative arts. The galleries will be open for extended hours on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m.