Thousands expected to descend on Detroit Festival of Books

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News
The scene last year at the Detroit Festival of Books in Eastern Market. This year's fair happens Sunday.

Heads up, book lovers: The third-annual Detroit Festival of Books -- aka the Detroit Bookfest -- lands Sunday at Eastern Market. 

The event, which organizers say drew 10,000 visitors last year and boasts over 120 vendors, outgrew its previous home in market Sheds 4 and 5, and will now be in the largest -- Shed 3. 

But just what is the Bookfest?

"I like to describe it as a glorious day of thousands and thousands of books, comics, vinyl records, creative arts, food, beer, funk music and more," said Ryan M. Place, festival founder and chairman. 

"The primary focus is used, rare and antiquarian books," he said, but added that there will also be a bunch of authors selling new volumes of their works. 

The festival will also feature a bar with craft offerings from Eastern Market Brewing Co., as well as wines from Detroit Vineyards. Those with a hearty appetite can graze offerings from, among others, Nosh Pit Detroit, Cosmic Burrito, Big Dog Hot Dogs, and Cherry Pit BBQ.

Feeling a little peaked? Swing by Bea's Squeeze pop-up lemonade stand. And to keep spirits high, a DJ will be spinning funk music. 

As a special, non-literary treat for kids of all ages, the 27-foot-long Oscar Mayer Wienermobile will put in an appearance. 

Of the Bookfest, Detroit's largest bookseller John K. King said, "I think it's a wonderful addition to the culture of the city." 

King will have four tables crammed with offerings. "We'll have $20 books," he said, "but also $1 ones."

As a special draw, he'll be offering bound volumes of National Geographics from the 1920s on, which King got from a late collector's home in Livonia. 

"His whole basement," he said, "was full of them." 

This is hardly Michigan's only book fair, of course. Others include Ann Arbor's Kerrytown Bookfest, the Jewish Book Festival, the Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show, the Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair, the Traverse City Children's Book Festival, and the Harbor Springs Festival of the Book. 

With so many literary fairs statewide, why add another?

Place says it had a lot to do with shining a positive spotlight on the Motor City. 

"Prior to Detroit's revitalization," he said, "the city was getting beaten down year after years in the international press, unfairly labeled a cultural wasteland. So I was motivated to do something good for the community that would counteract that misperception."

Among the Bookfest's virtues are the fact that it's free, and the cost of a vendor's table is just $30. 

"That's absurdly low," Place said, "but we want people to come, have a good time, and also turn a profit." 

And as King points out, prowling the Bookfest is sure to be a lot more fun than looking on Amazon. 


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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

Third-Annual Detroit Festival of Books 

Shed 3, Eastern Market, Russell & Adelaide, Detroit 

10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Sunday