The Louisiana Book Festival will bring about 25,000 people and some of the state and country’s best-known authors to downtown Baton Rouge on Nov. 2.
From the legendary, such as award-winning author Ernest J. Gaines, to fan favorites, like “Duck Dynasty’s” Alan Robertson, the festival promises to be a page turner.
In addition to authors and books, the festival will tie into the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism’s Year of Music with musical performances by Mary Gauthier, local band Circa Amore, and Ben Bell and the Stardust Boys, as well as a slew of authors who have written about Louisiana’s music.
“The only downside is that there’s so many interesting things to do,” says Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne of the 10-year-old festival. “You have to make choices.”
Among those choices are a panel on the book “12 Years a Slave,” which was recently made into a movie starring Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberpatch and Michael Fassbender. Frank Eakin, son of Sue Eakin, who completed the final definitive edition of the book in 2007, will be there with Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr., who narrated the audiobook.
Gaines will take part in a conversation with T. Geronimo Jones, and Robertson will be there with the family’s “The Duck Commander Devotional,” which includes 365 days of scriptures, short stories and personal prayers from the whole family. Another Academy Award winner, William Joyce, of Shreveport, will be showing a new film at the festival. Nationally known authors like Pulitzer winner Rick Bragg, Wally Lamb, Tom Frankin and Beth Ann Fennelly, George and Wendy Rodrigue, and Poppy Tooker, who will be in a revived food demonstration tent, will make appearances.
Louisiana’s festival, which pumps about $2 million into the local economy, never wants for literary talent, something State Librarian Rebecca Hamilton attributes to the unique environment the State Capitol complex provides for both authors and their fans.
“It’s an intimate setting,” she says. “It’s a very different environment if you want to meet your author and talk to your author. … We don’t have to beg these authors to come.”
Another focus for this year’s festival is on young people, particularly teens.
“If we could really get teens there this year, we could really get that component to grow,” says Hamilton, adding that organizers consulted teens around the state on how to do that. “We need to get them thinking that reading is cool, reading is fun.”
The festival also shines a light on what Hamilton calls “the forgotten agency,” the State Library, which provides funding for and works with public libraries around Louisiana in addition to organizing the festival.
“We play a critical role now more than ever with the downsizing of government,” she says, adding that 38 percent of Louisianians don’t have internet access at home, but all of them have access through their local libraries. As things like job searches and applying for government benefits move online, “people really do need the services libraries provide.”