Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the South Dakota Book Festival in Deadwood along with numerous other book enthusiasts. The festival is a surprisingly well-attended event with plenty of interesting sessions and a large number of authors and exhibitors selling their latest publications. Ted Kooser’s presentation was a highlight of the first night and it did not disappoint. The man has a way with words that most of us only wish we had. It is a very good thing that Ted is a friend of the Press.
I need to mention that Deadwood is an absolutely gorgeous venue for the festival. Fall colors are just starting to turn and the people are beyond friendly. It’s hard to tell if attendees are book lovers who like to gamble on the side, or vice versa. Gambling appears to be a main economic staple of Deadwood, and there are ample opportunities to lose a few dollars to slot machines or blackjack tables during festival down time.
The exhibition hall, an explosion of authors, vendors, and attendees, is a giant open room of tables and booths that share the space with the main stage for sessions. The setup allows people to move back and forth, from listening to C. J. Box discuss the world of writing in the Mountain Time Zone to watching Dave Volk selling his latest children’s book. Everyone there shares a love of the written word covering just about every genre you could imagine: novels of every kind, history (local and beyond), politics, humor, romance, poetry (lots of poetry), and children’s books are all represented. The guy with the purple plush bear, selling his science fiction to anyone who will listen (did I mention he wore a kilt the entire time?) was entertaining everyone within earshot.
The vast majority of the attendees know the University of Nebraska Press. A good number came up just to say they own several of our books and appreciate all we do. Every few minutes someone was wandering up to ask about our latest publications. Dirty Words in Deadwood was especially highlighted: Is that Deadwood the town or Deadwood the HBO TV show? The question was asked with a smile and was then followed by opinions regarding the language used in the show.
I was struck by that fact that everyone (and I mean everyone) was happy. Happy to be at the festival, happy to be surrounded by other book lovers, happy to rub shoulders with authors who were happy to rub shoulders with their fans, happy booksellers talking up their latest books on every topic. It seems that festivals of this sort are a great medicine for getting rid of the blues.
I heard this was the 11th anniversary of the South Dakota Book Festival, an event that both represents and encourages the special connection between author and reader. Something that all of us who love books look forward to every year.