President’s Day weekend in the city of Savannah, Ga. was graced once again by a crowd of authors and the thousands of readers eager to hear them and get their latest work signed. The Savannah Book Festival this past week—officially stretching from Brad Thor’s Wednesday night event to Sunday’s closing ceremony with Stephen King—was another success for the festival’s directors and the rest of the 115 volunteers who make the (now) five-day fest a reality.
Attendance jumped 76% over the 2011 fair, with 11,000 people turning out for this year's event. Book sales, handled by the Savannah College of Art and Design’s (SCAD’s) campus bookstore Ex Libris, were nearly double last year’s, at $60,000.
The three-day run-up to the festival’s full Saturday of free and open-to-the-pubic events included a 200-person, $65-a-head Wednesday-night dinner with Thor, a fascinating and far-reaching $10 Thursday night lecture by Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, and an uproarious free keynote from beloved Southern scribe Pat Conroy, whose stories of his early days as a writer caused the 550-capacity Trinity United Methodist Church, where he spoke, to radiate laughter across Telfair Square—even when the PA system playing to the overflow crowd in the festival’s Telfair Square Tent, laughter from inside the church was clearly audible to the 400 people gathered in the mild winter evening. A VIP meet-the-authors party following Conroy’s keynote pulled in 300 attendees (at $250 per), and took place in the richly-appointed Jepson Museum.
Saturday, the festival got into full swing with 38 author events in 6 venues, all located around a single tree-lined square. Local food vendors including Thrive Carry Out Café, River Street Sweets and Two Smart Cookies were also on-hand, as well as beloved Savannah institution Leopold’s Ice Cream, which created a signature ice cream or sandwich for each author, including Stephen King’s Ice Scream (milk chocolate with caramel and pretzels) and Who’s Afraid of Mocha Chocolate Chip to commemorate Touré’s Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness.
A full report of the SBF's weekend festivities will appear in Friday's Tip Sheet.