From the sold-out keynote address to the "insane" crowd at Sunday morning's Pete the Cat parade, the sixth annual Decatur Book Festival was another success for organizers, attendees, and the city of Decatur. Cofounder and executive director Daren Wang estimates that attendance was up between 10% to 15% this year, and that the turnout for the parade Sunday morning easily doubled, and perhaps tripled, their highest parade numbers: "The Judy Schachner parade [on Saturday morning] was really wonderful – probably 400 to 500 kids took part. But Pete the Cat was insane! I stood on the corner and watched it go by, it was 10 or 15 minutes of just kids. I knew [Pete the Cat illustrator] James Dean and [author] Eric Litwin were hometown favorites, but I had no idea it was going to be like that."
The keynote address, featuring husband-wife collaborators Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis and their debut novel Wildwood, packed Agnes Scott University's Presser Hall with 800 ticket-holding fans. Other ticketed events also faired well: director/performer Tom Key's stage adaptation of Eudora Welty's The Optimist's Daughter, a work-in-progress featuring original compositions by singer-songwriters Caroline Herring and Kate Campbell, sold out, and bar-venue Eddie's Attic drew an overflow crowd of about 50 on the patio outside. "I am so proud of that particular event," said Wang afterward.
The vast majority of the events were free to the public. The pews at the First Baptist Church were packed for Tom Perrotta and a discussion between George Pelacanos and Gregg Hurwitz, the Emerging Writers Paviion outside the Decatur Courthouse drew a continuous stream of festival-goers, and the children's stage in the center of it all was consistently mobbed.
The fest was a hit for vendors too, including everyone from Decatur children's bookseller Little House of Stories to Chicagoland book sale-management pros Red Carpet Books. Eagle Eye Books, an area store that has been heavily involved with DBF since its inception, had pop-up bookstores outside two of the major stages. Owner Doug Robinson reports that sales were up "about 10%" over the previous year.