For the third year in a row, the San Antonio Book Festival staged at the San Antonio Central Library and the Southwest School of Art turned the last Saturday before Fiesta into a day unlike any other on the city’s cultural calendar.
This was a festival, an indoor-outdoor virtual comic con for literature of all types, with author panels, readings and book signings, cooking demos and food trucks, a first-ever documentary film screening, teen and young reader events, and just enough live music. Thousands came downtown, undeterred by weather forecasts of rain that never really materialized on a cool and comfortable April day.
If the skies were never clear, the city’s sentiment was: Books are still cool, technology is not supplanting the joy and art of reading, and San Antonio wants a world-class book festival. Organizers are delivering one in very short order.
With 89 invited authors in attendance and 64 sessions on tap, the event organized by the San Antonio Public Library Foundation was slated to draw more than 15,000 patrons downtown. If there was a common theme among festival-goers racing between events, it was this: Why isn’t the bookfest a two-day affair with more opportunity to connect with more authors over a greater space of time?
The answer is probably simple: money. But the demand is there and only likely to grow with each year.
“Each year we have worked really hard to educate the public about what they can expect when they get here. There is something for everyone from children all the way to adults. There are many things we offer for all readers,” said Katy Flato, executive director of the San Antonio Book Festival.
Among the numerous goals for the festival is to connect authors with their public through events like signings and intimate and informal Q&A sessions. Saturday did not disappoint as many session drew standing room only crowds.
The 2015 edition featured noted authors such as Matt Lankes. His book “Boyhood,” named after the film released last year, documents the making of the independent coming-of-age drama.
Other noted writers included Jan Jarboe Russell, author of “The Train to Crystal City” about the tragic role South Texas played in the World War II internment of immigrant families from Japan, Germany and Italy by The Roosevelt administration.
“This is such a great thing for our city’s life,” said Russell. “There is no great city without festivals like this. It brings together readers and writers across all the genres. Stories teach us how to live better, and for my book to be one of the many is exciting, and the city I love is at the center of that place.”
Amid a carnival atmosphere outside, exclusive live readings inside, and book lovers everywhere, one can only imagine what milestones next year will bring.