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California's 1st Bay Area Book Festival
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California's 1st Bay Area Book Festival

Picture of Savannah Vasco
Updated: 11 December 2015
On the weekend of June 6th, 2015 the streets of Berkeley, California were crowded with book lovers of all ages and all genres. The free two day Bay Area Book Festival, sponsored by the San Francisco Chronicle, welcomed over 300 authors from around the world and included 145 keynotes, interviews, panels, and readings throughout a ten block radius of Berkeley.

In the press release for the event Cherilyn Parsons, founder and executive director of the festival said, “The Bay Area Book Festival will have something for all kinds of readers. We’re especially excited about bringing authors from around the world—including ten countries beyond the United States—so local readers and writers can meet them. The Bay Area is a global hub, and we’re becoming one of the nation’s most international literary festivals. Get ready for a fabulous journey.” The organizers did not disappoint. Lines wrapped around the block as people waited to get into events. Excitement was palpable everywhere you walked, no less than in the children’s section.

Part of what made the Bay Area Book Festival unique was the installation Lacuna, made up of 50,000 books donated by the Internet archive. As books were removed from the installations walls throughout the weekend the structure became the heart of the festival. By the end of the last day almost all 50,000 of the free books where gone.

The festival included events for adults, teens, and children of all ages. Some highlights consisted of panels on race, immigration, world fiction, translation, writing, and climate for adults and readings by Jenny Han, Lauren Oliver, Frank Portman, Mac Barnett, Jennifer Holm, and Mike Wu for children and teens. Exhibits were set up for a hands on experience for children and adults, along with books and art for sale. Half of Allston Way was devoted to “Radical Row” while an entire area of downtown Berkeley was dedicated to children’s activities and events.

The entire festival cumulated with a conversation with Judy Blume in which her wide range of work was discussed. This was the only main event of the entire weekend that charged an extra fee.

The local Berkeley community completely supported this event while people from all over the Bay Area and even farther arrived to celebrate their love of reading.

The festival was held both indoors and outdoors, and hosted a make shift beer and wine garden adjacent to Berkeley’s Civic Center Park. Food trucks and stalls were set up, offering a variety of cuisine along with the weekly Saturday farmers’ market on the 6th.

All panels, except for Judy Blume, were ticketed but free. No tickets were necessary for the children or teen stage.

The Bay Area Book Festival Team was thrilled the inaugural weekend, but that isn’t stopping them from planning to make the next year better. With more authors, bigger venues, and an even better turn out, next year is sure to be amazing. To learn more, visit the Bay Area Book Festival web site and get excited for next year!