2019 Festival of Books Features Large Crowds, Poignant Presentations

From gourmet meals to poignant book discussions to Wild West shootouts, readers and writers were treated to a wide variety of events during the 17th annual Festival of Books.

Nearly 8,000 session attendees were on hand for 122 Festival events; the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center was packed for presentations by authors Megan Phelps-Roper, Kent Nerburn, Craig Johnson and others, while patrons gathered en masse at other venues in town throughout the weekend. 

Thursday: Author Reception

Festival presenters and fans gathered on Thursday evening at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center, a scenic venue featuring a 1,250-foot-deep open mining cut viewable through the large plate glass windows. 

Author Kimberly Stuart introduces herself at the Author Reception, the opening event for the 2019 South Dakota Festival of Books.

Friday: Wild West Shootouts, Writing Workshops and Book Discussions

On Friday as concurrent writing workshops began at 10 a.m. and Exhibitors' Hall opened at 1 p.m. Festival patrons flooded the hall on Friday and Saturday to buy books, check out exhibitor tables and get autographs from some of their new favorite authors.

Festivalgoers packed Bill's Backstage Bar for a morning interview featuring South Dakota Public Broadcasting's Lori Walsh, who spoke to Megan Phelps-Roper and Nick Estes. Phelps-Roper appeared at the Festival in support of her memoir "Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church," while Estes discussed during his presentations his recently released "Our History Is the Future; Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance."

Crowds then gathered outside the Deadwood Mountain Grand at "High Noon" for a Wild West Shootout between mystery authors Sandra Brannan and Heather Graham. The event was facilitated by the local Deadwood Alive troupe. 

J. Ryan Stradal kicked off Friday evening's special events with the sold-out, "Books & Brews - Researching & Writing the Lager Queen of Minnesota" at His and Hers Ale House, which was followed by the Literary Feast at the Martin and Mason Hotel 1898 Ballroom and "Winning Westeros" featuring ML Cavanaugh and John Amble at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center.  

Mystery author Heather Graham signs autographs outside the Deadwood Mountain Grand prior to her Wild West Shootout with fellow author Sandra Brannan. The event was facilitated by the local Deadwood Alive troupe. 

Bill's Backstage Bar was packed Friday morning of the Festival for South Dakota Public Broadcasting's Lori Walsh and authors Megan Phelps-Roper and Nick Estes.

Lori Walsh of South Dakota Public Broadcasting introduces Iraq veteran and author Brian Turner, who presented a special writing workshop for war veterans.

J. Ryan Stradal, the 2017 One Book SD Author, discusses his book "The Lager Queen of Minnesota" at His and Hers Ale House in Deadwood on Friday, Oct. 4.

John Amble, left, and ML Cavanaugh during the Friday Night Feature: Winning Westeros presentation at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center. 

Saturday: Final Full Day of Presentations

Always the busiest day of the Festival, Saturday featured concurrent sessions throughout Deadwood leading up to a busy night of special events at the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center, including the presentation of the Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities Awards and a packed house for popular author Craig Johnson. 

South Dakota Humanities Council 2019 Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities award winners (from left) South Dakota Historical Society Press (represented by Nancy Koupal), Scott Rausch and Julie Moore Peterson. Awards were distributed by SDHC executive director Ann Volin (far right).


Craig Johnson, author of the popular Longmire series of novels that became a tv series on A&E and Netflix, filled the Deadwood Mountain Grand Event Center for his presentation Saturday night, Oct. 5.

Sunday: A Gourmet Meal with 'The Sioux Chef' Sean Sherman

Sunday was the final day of the Festival of Books and it was a day of food featuring the morning Book Lovers' Brunch and a special gourmet meal with Sean Sherman of "The Sioux Chef." Sherman prepared a traditional indigenous meal using natural, locally-sourced ingredients.

The final Festival of Books event was the Closing Celebration featuring Sean Sherman of "The Sioux Chef." Below are some of the dishes Sherman served as part of the indigenous meal. 

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