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, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2. 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 13th Decatur Book Festival.
How To Plan For The Weekend
GETTING TO THE FESTIVAL
Several roads in and around the Decatur Square are closed 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 is 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 AUG. 31
Decatur Book Festival opens Friday night with discussions for adults and kids. The events are free, but tickets are required.
The keynote speaker, Kenny Leon, is an internationally acclaimed director and actor known for his work on the Broadway stage and screen. Leon released his first memoir, “Take You Wherever You Go,” this summer. The speech is at Emory’s Schwartz Center for Performing Arts on Friday at 8 p.m. Reserve tickets>
The kidnote speech celebrates the 20th anniversary of the U.S. publication of “Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone.” According to the Decatur Book Festival organizers, the event features a star studded group of popular middle grade and YA authors, including Becky Albertalli, Laurel Snyder, and Nic Stone, talking about how “The Sorcerer’s Stone” changed the literary landscape for both readers and writers. The kidnote address is Friday at 5 p.m. at Presser Hall at Agnes Scott College. Reserve tickets>
AUTHOR EVENT SCHEDULE
This year’s festival has 17 venues 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, culinary stage, emerging writers stage, YA stage, local poetry stage and more.
Author presentations begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and noon on Sunday.
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. You can search by author as well as by stage, topic or date.
FOR THE GROWN-UPS
Festival organizers offer a list of programming highlights for adults that is broken down into fiction, non-fiction, science, poetry, cooking, history, and civil and human rights categories. Authors include Karin Slaughter, Tayari Jones, Paige Embry, Lynn Brunelle, Rick Bragg, Beth Macy, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Todd Richards, John Ferling and others.
There is also a unique author-curated track put together by Shea Serrano, author of “Basketball (and Other Things).” This program features a diverse group of young voices, including Jonathan Abrams speaking about the history of the TV show The Wire and Jomny Sun, who will address his book “everyone’s a aliebn when ur a aliebn too,” which is based on his popular Twitter account.
There is also an Emerging Writers Pavilion where you can find self-published and small press books that have been selected by festival organizers for sale. For writers trying to get a foot into the business this serves as a space to promote their work and network with other authors.
FOR THE KIDS
Kids can join in the Children’s Parade – themed “Let It Shine!” – as it winds from the Community Bandstand to the Children’s Stage to open the festivities at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday and 11:45 a.m. on Sunday. Participants can line up 15 minutes ahead of the parade and meet the grand marshals. On Saturday Angela DiTerlizzi leads the group to celebrate her newest book, “Just Add Glitter!” The Force is with visitors on Sunday as Adam Rex, creator of the new picture book, “Are You Scared, Darth Vader?,” leads the parade.
Other presenters for children and young adults include Yuyi Morales, Henry Lien, Alexa Donne, Claire Legrand, Jason Reynolds and others. See the festival’s list of programming highlights for the Young Adult and Children’s Stages for more suggested kids events.
Closing out the celebration of “Harry Potter and The Sorcer’s Stone” that began in the kidnote address, events at the Children’s Stage end Sunday with a performance by wizard rock group Harry and the Potters.
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. The DBF Street Fair is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
art|DBF: LOCAL VISUAL ARTS
The art|DBF portion of the festival recognizes the importance of visual and performing arts, in addition to literary arts, in creating a vibrant community.
The Book As Art exhibit, an annual event, has a “Pulp” 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 runs Aug. 24 through Sept. 28.
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.
More performances may be scheduled closer to the festival.