The National Book Festival – A First Experience

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Well, we’re back from the National Book Festival! We were hot, sweaty and more than a little tired, but we had a wonderful time!

This week’s posts will center around our trip. To start off, I’m going to post some information about our overall Festival experience. When I decided to go to the Festival I began searching online to see what others had to say about their previous experience so I could be more prepared. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of information out there. Now that I have the first time under my belt, I’m primed and ready for the next trip.

The Festival takes place on the National Mall. This is a great location! Everything is laid out so well in the center of the Mall. There’s easy access to all the tents. It does make for a lot of walking! Comfortable clothes and shoes are a must. It was dry and hot and the Mall walking paths were very dusty. If it had rained it would have probably been muddy in places. For some reason they had all of the benches taped off, so for seating during resting periods we had to sit on the ground. This was fine as the Mall’s grassy areas are lined with trees and made for cooler, shady areas to rest. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for this and didn’t bring a blanket or anything along for us to sit on. We worked it out though. Next time I’ll remember the blanket. It was hotter than we expected. We packed some drinks and snacks in a backpack and I’m so glad we did! We ate lunch at one of the refreshment stand set up along the Mall. $9.75 for chicken finger, fries and a drink. Not too bad, but drinks alone can add up pretty quick. As hot as it was, we were glad we brought extra drinks with us. They had loads of port-a-pottys set up so there were no worries about finding a bathroom. Of course, you could always go in to one of the Smithsonian buildings to eat, take a bathroom break, or just take a break from the heat of the Festival. We didn’t visit any of the building. We’ve already been a half-dozen times and the thought of walking there and back and having to go through security seemed too exhausting.

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When we arrived at the Festival it was around 9:30 am. Since things really didn’t get moving until 10 am, this was a great time to get a seat to see our first author of the day. Throughout the fair are information tents that provided pink bags, map/schedule/author bio books and Festival posters. We stopped there and picked up those things first then grabbed our seat to see the first author in the History/Biography tent. All the tents are well labeled and the map they give you is extremely simple to use. There are volunteers everywhere and they are extremely helpful. After we listen to our first author we walked around to see some of the other tents. We checked in with other authors as the day went on. The genre tents get extremely crowded and seating is very limited. Popular genres/authors are standing room only. We weren’t able to secure a seat after the first one.

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There are a lot of tents geared toward kids with lots of activities and things to keep little one’s busy. In this weeks upcoming posts I’ll provide more information about our experience in these tents.

Books are available to buy in a large tent. It was very crowded and we ended up going in and coming right back out. Books are the regular price so there were no great deals to be had. However, some titles were for sale that are not yet available in stores. We opted to bring the books we wanted signed with us in our backpack.

Each author was assigned a time slot for signing books. In the book signing area lines formed before each signing tent which were numbered. Each author is assigned to a numbered tent. The lines were extremely long! We did get one book signed. It only took 2 hours. It was worth it. I’ll tell all about in an upcoming post.

We left dirty, tired and sweaty. For this trip we really had no real expectations. It was ok if we didn’t see every author we wanted to and it was ok if we didn’t get any books signed. We went for the experience. Next time I’ll have a strategy. I’ll probably pick the tent has the most authors I’d like to see and stay put. There’s always the next year. Right?

Check back all this week as I share my Festival experience.

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4 responses to “The National Book Festival – A First Experience

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