Nonstop rainy weather threw a wrench in the plans of many fall festivals planned for the first weekend in October. But the gray days were perfect for people who love to stay in with a good book, and the Brooklyn Book Festival managed to draw a huge crowd of indoors to attend panel discussions, meet with authors and question the role of literature in today’s most pressing issues.
“We were lucky for 16 years to have wonderful weather,” said Liz Koch, co-producer and vice president of the BBF. “But Sunday, we just had to pivot.”
High winds, a gloomy sky and cold rain tried to get in the way of everything that was planned for the weekend. Fortunately for reading enthusiasts, quick adjustments brought the festival’s events to the Center for Brooklyn History, the Brooklyn Law School, the courtroom at Brooklyn Borough Hall, and more out-of-a-story-like venues — and many agreed it enhanced the experience .
Most of the program was planned to take place around seven stages at parks, plazas and venues surrounding Brooklyn Borough Hall on October 2, with more than 50 events throughout the day. Adapting to the circumstances meant the Marketplace, a book sale with multiple local publishers including Abrams, the first company in the United States to specialize in publishing art and illustrated books in 1949, had to be cancelled.
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, who facilitated the Borough Hall space for the impromptu change of settings, spoke to on growing book-banning efforts in the US
“As we witness bans on our beloved books around the country, know that in Brooklyn you’ll always be able to access the books you crave or simply have curiosity about,” he wrote in a letter ahead of the festival.
Author meet-and-greets and book signings had both writers and fans starstruck, according to their posts on social media. “When your kid meets one of his literary heroes, The George O’Connor, and he’s the coolest cat!” wrote author Courtney Zoffness on Instagram, captioning a photo of the author of “Dionysos: The New God,” posing with her son.
“Access to books changing people,” Koch said. “Not every neighborhood in Brooklyn has bookstores, but thankfully, libraries allow individuals to approach ideas, experience different realities and schools of thought.”
Of course, the rain also couldn’t bring down the festival’s digital offerings — Brooklynites and book lovers from all over the world still had access to free talks and panels online all day long, and the Brooklyn Book Festival will publish the recordings of panels and talk that took place on Sunday. The content will be available on the BBF website in November.
“Thank you to our wonderful authors and dedicated supporters for braving the elements this weekend for Children’s Day and Festival Day!” organizers wrote on Twitter on Monday. “We also want to thank our incredible volunteers for all their hard work! The literary spirit of celebration was strong this weekend!”
Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran in Brooklyn Paper. Click here to see the original story.