By Kendra Sitton
After a break from many in-person events in 2020, innovative gatherings are returning to San Diego’s streets. On Saturday, July 17, bibliophiles can enjoy the first annual North Park Book Fair. Over 50 independent booksellers, including favorites like Mysterious Galaxy and the Book Catapult, will be at the event. Local authors and poets will also be featured at the free, family-friendly event.
The event includes a wide variety of literature, from traditional books to graphic novels and self-published zines.
“It’s a combination of some amazing literary vendors of all different types and peppered in some craft vendors that are all sort of literary themes crafts, to bolster the shopping experience that our customers are going to have that day,” said Mady Richardson, the event coordinator.
The idea for the event initially came to Justine Enitsuj, the owner of Verbatim Books. She grew up in Hillcrest and worked for many years at Fifth Avenue Books. She loved going to the book fair there until it was absorbed by CityFest in 2008 and eventually faded away.
“I just really remember enjoying that and thinking it was really cool. I sort of wanted to have something like that in North Park because there’s a lot of literary people there, too,” Enitsuj said. “I thought it’d be fun.”
Angela Landsberg, manager of North Park Main Street, jumped on the idea as a way to support local businesses and attract a new crowd to North Park. Many North Park eateries will be selling food to attendees near the main stage on North Park and Ray streets.
The planning began while COVID restrictions were still in place. Verbatim Books previously held two events per week on average. Enitsuj looked for new events that could bring people in the sun where it is safer.
“We imagine that people can come spend a day outside in the sun, shopping outdoors because we love our open air these days, and find some awesome books, take a seat, get some food and listen to some open mic poetry, some live music,” Richardson said. “If you look hard enough you might just even find a free book booth. And so we’ve got stuff for every budget. We’ve got multiple languages represented. We’re really trying hard to get as many different types of literary talent in here as possible.”
The event is being held outside in the space on 30th Street and North Park Way used each week by the farmer’s market. While it is impossible to predict how many people will come to a first-time event, Richardson is planning for 3,000 attendees.
“There’s all these little facets of the community that I feel like may or may not know even know about each other. So the goal was to find the best of all that or you know, and just bring everybody together and see what happens,” Enitsuj said.
Alongside North Park Main Street, Verbatim Books is hosting the event. Enitsuj used her contacts in the local literary scene from events like the annual San Diego Book Crawl to gather vendors and performers.
In the morning, beginning at 10 a.m., San Diego-based children’s authors will read their books aloud.
One of the featured authors is Dr. Joy Francisco who writes bilingual books in English and Tagalog. She began self-publishing books when she realized there was a gap in resources for her own Filipino-American kids. Her series has sold well at Verbatim Books and she has done other events with them.
“I consider myself a bibliophile. I love books. I love bookstores, I love libraries and so it’s really cool because it reminds me of elementary school when we used to have Scholastic Book Fairs and so it’s really cool to have that come alive for adults,” Francisco said.
After the children’s authors, there will be live music. In the afternoon, there will be an open mic on the stage with people sharing their favorite poems or passages from books. There will also be an hour dedicated to spoken word artists.
“We’ve been hearing a call lately, you know, to offer some more opportunities for people to buy from small booksellers, rather than Amazon and Barnes & Noble and stuff like that, so we are really just trying to provide an opportunity for residents of North Park and people all around San Diego to be able to explore and discover some small presses and authors and bookstores that are in our local area,” Richardson said.
To learn more about the event, visit www.northparkmainstreet.org.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.