The Kerrytown BookFest
by John Hilton
No, this isn't that big-budget spring event that celebrates publishing, literacy, and other profundities. The Kerrytown District Association BookFest is much homier than that. A neighborly get-together that features printers, illustrators, writers, book dealers, and other practitioners of the literary arts, it draws a friendly, supportive crowd of Kerrytown area residents and businesspeople, passionate bibliomanes from all over, and casual browsers to displays of books and crafts set up under the green-roofed sheds of the Farmers' Market.
At the inaugural BookFest last year, I spent a few hours staffing a table for the Observer, handing out copies of the Community Observer, selling a few Guest Guides, and chatting with any number of old friends who passed by. After Eve Silberman relieved me, I snuck away to catch Keith Taylor reading under the big tent near Fourth and then cruised the aisles. I snagged a free U-M libraries book bag for my daughter and bought one of the nostalgic "reconstructed landscapes" Chenille Sister Cheryl Dawdy makes from vintage postcards. I picked up a bookmark featuring a long-spiked agave flower from I Spy photographer Sally Bjork, bought losing tickets to the fund-raising raffle, and upgraded my casserole-making potential with a copy of Kitchen Port cofounder Ricky Agranoff's Cooking in Porcelain. When I heard about it later, I kicked myself for having missed Gillian Ferrington's demonstration of gyokatu fish printing. She actually took a whole fish from Monaghan's, inked it, and struck a print from it.
I'll have another chance on Sunday, September 12 along with more than a dozen other demonstrations, from paper marbling to leather paring. I'm hoping to catch tours of the city's last working Linotype machine at Ben Burkhart's Fourth Avenue shop, and one of the state's last hand bookbinderies at Bessenberg on Fifth; hear honorary chairs Joe and Beth Fitzsimmons describe their very different book collections (his: Antarctica, hers: ABCs); and this time I'll try to tear myself away from the booths long enough to catch a talk at Hollander's, where festival sparkplugs Tom and Cindy Hollander have a promising lineup of speakers on topics ranging from type design to book appraisal.
Last spring, the big festival over on North U briefly thought it had landed literary lion Gore Vidal as its keynote speaker. Next fall, I think the KDA BookFest should go after Davy Rothbart. After all, the irreverent inventor of Found magazine lives right down the street by Wheeler Park. He's a neighbor.
[Originally published in September, 2004.]