Book lovers in San Antonio know that the biggest day of the year is “the Saturday before Fiesta.” The San Antonio Book Festival is only three years old, but already it’s become a much-anticipated, one-day extravaganza. It’s not official Fiesta, but for thousands of people of all ages, it’s the new cascarón on the city’s arts and culture calendar: colorful, full of surprises, and already a guaranteed big hit.

This Saturday, the downtown Central Library and the Southwest School of Art will become a reader’s paradise of authors, panels, readings and book signings, children and teen events, and more.

It’s hard to imagine April in San Antonio without the bookfest. It’s as if the event has been part of the downtown cultural fabric for much longer. The many people and forces working in this city to create more authentic happenings to enrich San Antonio’s lifestyle offerings could do worse than study the bookfest as a model cultural startup. And, yes, the whole day is free.

The challenge for the committed reader is which author events to attend. There will be a record 89 authors in attendance this year, and the diversity and depth of talent is extraordinary. Some are national, some are regional and some are local. Some of the regional and local authors are major national authors.

“Every great city has a great book festival and we are proud to be San Antonio’s,” said Katy Flato, the SABF’s executive director. “Our Festival continues to grow in vibrant ways that benefit the city, not only in the number of literacy organizations and schools we partner with, but also in the economic impact we make with area businesses, hotels and restaurants and the great reputation the city gains nationwide as a major literary destination.

“Each year we tweak, change and add to expand and improve our programming,” she added. “More books were submitted this year, we increased the depth and scope of our panels, and added new sessions such as Pitchapalooza and a film  screening.  The goal is to bring more people under this literary tent because once they’re there, they will be amazed.”
A selection of authors participating in the 2015 San Antonio Book Festival. Courtesy image.
A selection of authors participating in the 2015 San Antonio Book Festival. Courtesy image.

The good news is that C-Span will be at this year’s bookfest, taping author presentations for broadcast one week later. Still, seats fill up quickly for so many of the authors, so plan ahead: Check out the searchable schedule of author appearances and panels, as well as the links to author signings, children and family events, and cooking demos.

It took me less than one minute to download the Eventbase Free app to my smartphone and load the SA Book Festival schedule for use on Saturday while on the bookfest grounds.

The book festival starts at 10 a.m. and continues through 5 p.m. Two events will be staged at the Charline McCombs Empire Theater. There will be a free screening of author and music journalist Joe Nick Patoski‘s highly acclaimed feature-length documentary, “Sir Doug and and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove” at the Empire Theater at 1 p.m. You have to see this trailer (below) to appreciate why the film is generating so much buzz, in Texas and beyond. This will be the first film screening at the book festival, and hopefully, a new tradition. Joe Nick will be on hand for an audience Q&A after the screening.

YouTube video

One of the most entertaining live stage events of the year is the Literary Death Match, which will start at 7 p.m at the Empire Theatre. It’s nearly sold out, so order your tickets now if you want to attend. Tickets are $10.

The hyper-energized, peripatetic Adrian Todd Zuniga is the creator and host of the event, which features three authors doing brief, entertaining readings that are then graded by three on-stage judges, whose rulings can be clever, snarky, brilliant and sometimes windy, undoubtedly influenced by audience howls, cheers, and boos. Zuniga cuts in and out with banter. SA2020 jefe Molly Cox returns as a judge this year and will be joined by novelist Luis Alberto Urrea and artist and author Franco Mondini-Ruiz

From left: Author Antonio Sacre, Melanie Robinson, and fellow teammate laugh and compete in the closing quiz/contest at the Literary Death Match. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
From left: Author Antonio Sacre, Melanie Robinson, and fellow teammate laugh and compete in the closing quiz/contest at the 2014 Literary Death Match. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

This year also marks another first for the local festival, Pitchapalooza. Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, cofounders of The Book Doctors, will preside as 20 writers deliver one-minute book pitches to a panel of judges, who will fire back with criticism or support, or maybe both.

“Everyone has an idea for a book, but Pitchapalooza lets those ideas compete, with the winner getting the chance to present his or her idea to literary agents,” said SABF Literary Director Clay Smith. “It’s a lot of fun for the audience and meaningful for the participants.”

The Magik Theatre will offer a special performance of “Llama, Llama” at 11 a.m. at the book festival. Admission is free. There will also be interactive experiences at the GeekBus and Connect Tent for young coders.

Visit for the full author list, schedule, and more.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated 90 authors would be present Saturday. The correct number is 89.  Balliet will not attend.

*Featured/top image: The San Antonio Book Festival. Image courtesy of The CE Group/Shane Kyle.

Related Stories:

San Antonio Book Festival Releases List of Authors

SA Book Festival Fiction Contest Ups the Ante

San Antonio Book Festival Even Better the Second Time

San Antonio Book Festival Will Draw Thousands Downtown

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.