Somebody Else's Festival

The lady was concerned: had we been selling books all day without telling her? She knew the Book Fair started on Thursday every year, and she’d seen an ad for it this weekend. It took three of us, working as a team, to convince her that she has a few weeks to go.

What confused her was that this is the weekend for the Printer’s Row LitFest, which is, just to be confusing, also celebrating its thirtieth year this summer. 1984 was a good year for starting book fairs, I reckon, George Orwell to the contrary.

We are not the same event, however. Here are a few pointers for telling us apart.

The LitFest is in June; the Newberry Book Fair is in July. (When we started, we were in August but, hey, when THEY started, they weren’t a LitFest.)

They hold their shindig outdoors; we are indoors. (Sometimes the LitFest has been freezingly cold. We seldom have that problem at the Book Fair. This is why I like to remind people we are in an area which is at least moderately controlled. Once again this year, they have declined to put AIR CONDITIONED in immense letters on our posters and bookmarks.)

The LitFest includes a great deal of children’s programming. We prefer to let children wander around and buy books.

There are poets reading their own works at all hours during the LitFest. The Book Fair allows poets to buy their own works, if they feel like it.

It’s a matter of personal preference, but I like our restrooms better.

The LitFest includes talks by commentators on world affairs. We have the Bughouse Square Debates, which is the same thing but with more heckling.

They have appearances by literary lions. We have squirreling sections.

The LitFest features a large number of crossing guards in yellow vests. We have a squadron of room floaters in red aprons.

At the LitFest, you will find books priced in all kinds of places. Ours are marked on the upper right hand corner of the first white page. (You’ll have to hunt for it when you pick up graphic novel. Every graphic novel illustrator wants to be known as a great innovator in comic art, and therefore never uses pages with black borders.)

We do not hand out cardboard fans. (We’re AIR CONDITIONED, remember?)

Their maps are bigger, but ours are on colored paper.

We have a booth at their event, but they’re not really interested in having one at ours. (Ours is nearly two months after theirs, see, but theirs is ten months after ours.)

I have never seen an 8-track tape for sale at the Printer’s Row LitFest.

The LitFest is held in an historic neighborhood, in and among some nice-looking buildings. The Book Fair is held inside an AIR CONDITIONED landmark building.

We have more polka records for sale than they have.

They have canopies over some of the displays, but if rain (or even snow) develops, people must pull out plastic sheets to cover their displays, and chase customers away if lightning is involved. We, on the other hand, are snug indoors (with our AIR CONDITIONING) and can sell you postcards in a thunderstorm.

And, as the lady recalled, we are open twice as long as they are. You can come and spend money for four straight days (five, if you’re an Associate at the right level.) This might cost a bit more, but remember, you’ll be where it’s AIR CONDITIONED.

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