It was on an autumn Saturday some 13 years back when Jeanne Brennan, a longtime trustee of the Collingswood Library Board
, stumbled upon a modest outdoor book festival during a trip to New York City.
"It was on the small side, but it intrigued me," she recalls. "And I thought it would be something that would be beneficial for our area."
Indeed, South Jersey in 2001 was not a region known for its public celebrations of the written word, and that doesn't seem to have changed much. In the northern stretch of the state, Jersey City
has an annual book fest. Newark hosts a respected biennial poetry event
. The Princeton Public Library runs a children's book fest
But for the past 12 years, the Collingswood Book Festival
, which Brennan launched with help from friends and family less than a year after that trip to New York, has been the sole annual option for South Jersey dwellers with an interest in street fair-style literary entertainment.
The event has become a beloved fall tradition in the small borough of 14,000, which sits halfway between Camden and Cherry Hill (it's an easy trip on PATCO). The borough's commissioners and its mayor are staunch supporters, says Brennan, who adds that attendance has grown steadily over the past decade.
"The first [festival] was kind of bare-bones," she says. "We didn't have any tents or any audio equipment."
Still, roughly 3,000 people showed up to see 15 authors speak. This October 11, Brennan expects 8,000 attendees to converge on Collingswood's Haddon Avenue.
, some self-published and some relatively well-known (including Wesley Stace
and Leigh Gallagher
) will be on hand to read and sign books. Writing workshops and panel discussion will also take place. And an entire block, dubbed "Loompaland
," will boast books and activities for children.
All events are free.
Correction: This year's Collingswood Book Festival takes place on Saturday, October 11; not October 15, as a previous version of this story incorrectly reported.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jeanne Brennan, Collingswood Book Festival