Raise your hand if you’re disappointed in the National Book Festival’s change of venue and date this year.
I know I’m not alone on this one.
Now, I understand why the change had to happen. I see it from the National Park Service’s view, and I see it from the Library of Congress’ view. I do understand that the costs to hold it on the Mall, with the new requirements, were prohibitive. I do understand that the National Park Service wants to make the Mall look less like the Serengeti and more like the inviting, beautifully landscaped grand avenue that it’s supposed to be.
I get it. It’s sensible. But I do think it’s the end of an era.
With the move to the Washington Convention Center, the National Book Festival will be happening almost a month earlier, on August 30. It’s also limited one day; NBF had previously expanded to two days in 2011. Hours will be longer; with electricity and the indoors come advantages, and apparently there will other goodies to entice us book geeks to stick around. Having never been in the Convention Center, I don’t know what to expect. I just hope it doesn’t feel like I’m sitting in a hotel conference room all day. And I’m kind of annoyed that it’s happening on a holiday weekend.
Also gone is the fun weekend that my husband and I usually plan; a nice hotel downtown, evening meals at restaurants we love or want to try, and bonding over books while we walk around from tent to tent. It was so fun to do this as a couple; being the book nerd that I am, I’m incredibly lucky to have married one. I know many people, men and women, who says their spouses won’t even touch a book. To share this with my husband, especially given our similar tastes, is priceless. We weren’t just celebrating books that weekend; we were celebrating our love of books together.
We’ll still do that, of course. And the 2014 National Book Festival will hold many great moments, I’m sure. But I’ll miss the Mall. Because rain or shine or sweltering heat, I was there, and I can’t say that many things in my life have had that kind of pull. It was special, and it would be foolish to say that the venue didn’t add to the magic. Books. Being celebrated on the National Mall, at a time when people are saying that this industry is dying. It was wonderful to see the real love, on full display, for any tourist from across the country or around the world to witness, on what’s essentially the heart of this country’s history and future. That doesn’t happen every day.
We’ll see what August 30 teaches us about the new National Book Festival. New memories to be made, for sure, but also a little bittersweet when you think about years past.