Sunshine State Book Festival enriches cultural landscape

by Roz Miller

The debut of the Sunshine State Book Festival on Jan. 24-26 will change and further enrich North Central Florida’s existing rich cultural landscape.

Our cultural smorgasbord offers multiple preforming arts stages; supports three outstanding visual arts festivals; provides musical groups and ensembles from orchestral, band, jazz, blues; a professional dance troupe and choral groups. 

What was missing was a literary arts festival recognizing the estimated two hundred area published authors living and writing among us as our family, friends and neighbors.

Book lovers and readers of all genres welcome the three days of planned free literary adventures beginning with a ‘kick-off’ public reception at the Matheson Museum on Friday, Jan. 24 from 5 to 7 pm. All are welcome to meet, mix and mingle with literary speakers, authors and dignitaries.

The centerpiece for the festival on Saturday, Jan. 25 will showcase 75 area authors at the Santa Fe College Fine Arts Hall from 10 am to 5 pm. 

This day of “Bringing Readers and Writers Together,” will give book lovers the opportunity to visit with authors they know and read and also afford readers the opportunity to meet new authors. Authors will sign books acquired during the festival for their readers’ personal libraries.

Free lectures by outstanding area authors will include Kevin McCarthy, Joe Haldeman, Steve Noll, John Dunn and Lola Haskins. Also, special festival guest Hilary Hemingway will talk on “Remembering Uncle Ernest.” Hilary’s uncle, Ernest Hemingway, left a major imprint on Florida’s literary culture.

Between the author lectures, the Saturday Author’s Showcase will offer free book drawings. Little readers will like the dedicated children’s corner with eight children’s authors, featuring storytelling and activities. 

The SFC Food Court will be open.

Ron W Haase, retired UF architecture professor and author of “Classic Cracker and The Last House” is one of the 75 participating authors. “My creative instincts have taken me from architecture to painting and now to writing,” he said. “I have never been more challenged and never enjoyed myself more.”

Sunday’s Literary Heritage Tour further emphasizes the literary culture of north central Florida with re-enactors of Robert Frost’s stays at the Thomas Hotel, now the Thomas Center, on his visits to Gainesville. William Bartram will share his story of 19th century Florida at Payne’s Prairie Preserve State Park, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings will tell about her time in Cross Creek before it became the Cross Creek State Park.

Reading is one of life’s many joys and with so many good area authors adding to the reading pool, readers will enjoy incalculable hours of reading pleasure.

The three-day Sunshine State Book Festival is slated to become an annual event. The festival is produced by the Writers Alliance of Gainesville, a 501(C)(3) non-profit. 

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