Festival Features Large Crowds

Festival: More than 7,000 session attendees over four days

It was a meeting of the minds and the books in Sioux Falls and Brookings for the South Dakota Festival of Books, which kicked off in brilliant fashion Thursday, September 25 at the Children’s Museum of South Dakota with the Young Readers’ Festival of Books and totaled more than 7,000 session attendees over four days. In Brookings, children from all over the area flooded the halls, brimming with questions and waving books to be signed. From cartoonist and illustrator Harry Bliss’s lamb puppet to science author Rebecca L. Johnson’s creepy-crawly slideshow about nature’s real-life zombies to Kate DiCamillo’s lively talk about her books and joint presentation with hoop dancer Kevin Locke, there wasn’t a dull moment.

Hoop dancer Kevin Locke shows some moves at the CMSD during the Young Readers Festival of Books in Brookings. Photo Courtesy of Ashley Wolff.

Hoop dancer Kevin Locke shows some moves at the CMSD during the Young Readers Festival of Books in Brookings. Photo Courtesy of Ashley Wolff.

On Friday, it was the adults’ turn to fill hallways clutching books. But the halls were in the Holiday Inn and the books they were clutching were their own. Droves of booklovers flocked to downtown Sioux Falls to take in writing workshops and panel discussions featuring screenwriters Matthew Specktor and Diane Johnson, critically acclaimed author and Iraq War veteran Phil Klay and more. Nearly four score people came to soak up The Book Doctors’ expertise on publishing and pitching at “Pitchapalooza,” and 17 of these lucky attendees gave a pitch and got advice from them. Friday closed with a lively and engaging presentation by DiCamillo and Kevin Locke, who demonstrated the power of stories through words, music and dance in front of a packed crowd at the Washington Pavilion.

The Book Doctors listen to a Pitch at "Pitchapalooza."

The Book Doctors listen to a Pitch at “Pitchapalooza.”

Saturday was a busy day; chock full of concurrent workshops and presentations discussing everything from illustrating children’s novels to reviving Midwestern history. Harry Bliss, Chris Browne, DiCamillo and other children’s authors entertained with topics angled toward young readers at the Washington Pavilion and Siouxland Library. The always entertaining cartoonist Bliss showed his audiences that “Mistakes are Good” in a very engaging visual presentation, while Browne explained the origins of his father’s original cartoon “Hagar the Horrible” and discussed his own book, “The Monster Who Ate the State.”

Sioux Falls author Chris Browne signs copies of his book "The Monster Who Ate the State."

Sioux Falls author Chris Browne signs copies of his book “The Monster Who Ate the State.”

Meanwhile, adults found academia and more at the Holiday Inn City Centre, Multi-Cultural Center and Orpheum Theater. The history of both Sioux Falls and the area was featured heavily for adult audiences on Saturday, including a documentary on the architect who designed some of Sioux Falls’ most iconic buildings and homes by Jennifer Dumke and a presentation on the military school established in Sioux Falls during World War II that, according to author Lynwood Oyos, changed the city forever into a center of economic and cultural growth in the region. Saturday’s historical discussion also included a presentation by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn on tribal perspectives of the 125th anniversary of statehood and a presentation on reviving the history of the Midwest by Richard Etulain, John Miller and Jon Lauck. Ever-popular mystery novelist C.J. Box drew heavy crowds for his “Literary Lunch” that featured an entertaining interview by Rapid City author Sandra Brannan, a highly engaging speaker and renowned mystery writer.

2014 Festival of Books author Lynwood Oyos speaking on Saturday.

2014 Festival of Books author Lynwood Oyos speaking on Saturday.

The Festival premiered a brand-new event this year, the Happy Hour for Readers and Writers. The event, intended to give readers and writers a chance to mingle and exchange thoughts on the Festival and books, had a great turn-out, with more than 150 people attending on Saturday night to mingle, enjoy hors d’oeuvres, and perhaps have a drink with their favorite author. Drawings for Literary Loot and an iPad filled out the evening, with several people winning Skype dates with authors, t-shirts, their name in print, original watercolors, and much more.

"Happy Hour for Readers and Writers" at the Holiday Inn City Centre in Sioux Falls.

“Happy Hour for Readers and Writers” at the Holiday Inn City Centre in Sioux Falls.

The evening concluded with a brilliant panel of authors at the Orpheum Theater discussing perspectives on the Dakotas after 125 years. Kathleen Norris, Dan O’Brien, Jon Lauck and Diane Johnson raised many interesting questions about the past and future of our state.

Dan O' Brien speaks during the "Perspectives on Dakotas" panel at the Sioux Falls Orpheum Theater during the 2014 Festival of Books.

Dan O’ Brien speaks at the keynote panel at the Sioux Falls Orpheum Theater during the 2014 Festival of Books.

On Sunday, Festival fans were in for a real treat at the Book Lovers’ Brunch, where former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser and One Book author Kathleen Norris spoke with great expertise about the importance and meaning of language and how it relates to the human spirit.

One Book author Kathleen Norris speaks at the Book Lovers Brunch at the Holiday Inn on Sept. 28

One Book author Kathleen Norris speaks at the Book Lovers Brunch at the Holiday Inn on Sept. 28

With more than 7,000 session attendees, 60 presenting authors, 44 exhibitors, two booksellers and about 75 volunteers and staff spread over nine venues, this year’s festival was bigger than about two-thirds of the towns in South Dakota. With presenters coming from as far as Hawaii and from as close as Sioux Falls, this event was not to be missed. For those who couldn’t make it, and for those who are suffering from Festival withdrawal, it’s never too soon to plan for next year! Join us September 24-27, 2015, in Rapid City and Deadwood!

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