Crowds of about 5,000 literature lovers are expected to gather in Brookings Thursday through Sunday for the first in-person South Dakota Festival of Books in two years. The South Dakota Humanities Council hosts the festival.
The festival, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, will feature 70 locally and nationally renowned authors, including some faculty members from South Dakota State University. Brookings alternates from Deadwood as the festival’s host city each year, and this year events will be held both on and off campus in Brookings.
“It’s big enough that there’s variety and there are people from all over the world and you can get new perspectives, but it’s small enough that it feels a bit intimate,” said Jennifer Widman, director of the festival. “You can really talk to the people who present afterwards, or you can have them sign your books, and we try to keep that personal atmosphere.”
Venues on campus include the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center, Alumni Center, Briggs Library, McCrory Gardens Visitor Center, SD Agriculture Museum, and SD Art Museum. Off campus is the Brookings Arts Council, Public Library, Children’s Museum, Mosaic Wine Bar and the Wilbert Square Event Center.
Participants have three different options this weekend at the Performing Arts Center to have their books signed by all the presenting authors. The first signing will take place on Friday 23 September at 3:30pm, followed by two more Saturdays at 12pm and 4pm
Local speakers include School of English and Interdisciplinary Studies professors Steven Wingate, Jodi Andrews and Amber Jensen, Sioux Falls graphic novelist Hector Curriel, Pine Ridge Native American activist Craig Howe, and Professor Emeritus Carter Johnson at SDSU’s Department of Natural Resources.
The national writers in attendance usually have a connection to the state, whether they are writing about South Dakota or are a South Dakota native.
“The festival is a way to support the community of readers and writers in South Dakota, as well as to invite nationally known authors who might otherwise not be able to come to this stage or meet South Dakota readers,” said Widman.
For Ann Volin, director of the South Dakota Humanities Council, among the notable authors in Faith, South Dakota, and Helen Frost, a native of Brookings.
Although the festival focuses primarily on the humanities, Volin said several authors may interest students with different SDSU majors.
“If you’re in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, you might be interested in Carter Johnson’s book, which talks about the landscape, or Sarah Vogel’s ‘The Farmer’s Lawyer,’ which talks about the agricultural crisis, or ‘ ‘How to Fix Farming’ by Beth Hoffman,” she said. “We also worked with the technical department to recruit a writer who will speak about artificial intelligence.”
All sessions and book signings are free to the public; However, a $50 ticket is required for the Thursday night writer reception at the Alumni Center, as well as a $20 fee for the two-hour writing workshops that run throughout the weekend.
“Books center the way we can share culture,” Volin said. “Being able to not only share these books, but to hear people talk about and discuss them adds another layer and opens them up even further and makes them more available and useful to people who enjoy something.”