Festival of Books Sees Record Attendance

The South Dakota Humanities Council increased fundraising by 68 percent in 2016, bringing Pulitzer Prize-winning authors and record attendance to its annual South Dakota Festival of Books.

Books Gifted to 5,000 Students

The fundraising surge was the backbone of a 2016 South Dakota Festival of Books that provided an unprecedented six Pulitzer Prize winners for audiences of more than 10,000 people in Brookings, Sioux Falls and Rapid City, and 5,000 copies of the 2016 Young Readers One Book selection for elementary students around the state.

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“We worked hard to increase our fundraising this year so we could provide even more literary programming throughout the state and during our annual Festival of Books,” said Sherry DeBoer, executive director. “We could not have accomplished what we did without the generous donors who made these events possible.” 

New Host Town

SDHC brought the 2016 Festival of Books to the new host town of Brookings in September. Readers and writers from within the community of Brookings and beyond the state’s borders embraced the event.

More than 10,000 session attendees of all ages meeting more than 70 authors and illustrators at literary readings, panels and more in Brookings, Sioux Falls and Rapid City. 

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Here is just a sampling of feedback submitted by audience members who attended the 2016 Festival.

“What entertaining speakers!”
“Great intellectual stimulation – keeps me going all year!”
“Thank you for broad spectrum of writers for all kinds of readers.”
“So many interesting topics – hard to choose!”
“Outstanding agenda, outstanding location.” 

The well-attended sessions included Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser, veteran book critic Michael Dirda of the Washington Post, and Pulitzer winner and 2016 One Book South Dakota author Jane Smiley.

Nearly 5,000 Young Readers received copies of their own One Book, “Andy Shane and Dolores Starbuckle: 4 Books in 1,” and most third grade students met author Jennifer Richard Jacobson. 

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2,000 Young Readers

The Young Readers author presented to more than 2,000 third graders in two sessions at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, and more than 1,200 people of all ages were exposed to the Children’s Museum of South Dakota in Brookings during Festival events. 

With numerous special events, two mass book signings, and more than 50 authors and illustrators selling their books in Exhibitors’ Hall, attendees had many chances to discover new favorites, providing plenty of food for thought and enough reading material to last until next year’s Festival. Mark your calendars for Sept. 21-24, 2017, when readers and writers will rendezvous again in Deadwood and Rapid City!

The Festival of Books is just one of the many events the South Dakota Humanities Council provides to South Dakotans to promote the importance of reading and literacy.

13 Pulitzer Prize Winners

A total of 13 Pulitzer Prize-winning authors were brought to the state to have conversations about letters, journalism and music in 12 cities. A collection of 11 essays by scholars, educators and journalists was published on the SDHC Blog and re-published in a series on the national Pulitzer Prize website under “Centennial Stories” and beginning with Kent Meyers essay “The Question of J. Robert Oppenheimer in the 21st Century.”


SDHC will be featured in three SDPB broadcasts about the “Centennial of the Pulitzers.”

The first episode aired in October. "Up Close & Pulitzer: Truth Tellers" will air January 22nd at 3 pm central time. "Up Close & Pulitzer: Storytellers" will air January 29th at 3 pm central time.

Stay tuned to the blog for more about the 2017 Festival!