Decatur Book Festival cancels 2023 event

Seren Davis, on left, sits with Agnes Scott classmate Julian Uhlman while reading a new book during the 17th annual Decatur Book Festival at First Baptist Church of Decatur on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. (Photo by Dean Hesse)

A social media post by the founder of the Decatur Book Festival made it sound like the festival will soon be no more.

But the Vice President of the Decatur Book Festival confirmed to Decaturish that the Book Festival is simply taking a year off while organizers reevaluate the event to make sure it is sustainable into the future.

“We’re planning to be back in October 2024,” Book Festival Vice President Leslie Wingate said. “We still have the weekend on reserve in Decatur. We have great partners, and great supporters. When COVID came, we had to rethink the festival already. We had to move away from the big street festival. We did the smaller version of the festival. We have to look at costs, volunteer time, and possible partners for the future too make it the most sustainable organization and thriving organization that it can be.”

The festival has not been the same since COVID. Before 2020, it was held on Labor Day weekend, the same weekend as Dragon Con in downtown Atlanta. When the festival returned, it moved to a weekend in October. The 2022 event was held on Oct. 1.

Book Festival Founder Daren Wang, who stepped down in 2017, made a Facebook post on March 20 that led to speculation about the event’s future.

“It was February 2005 when Marc Fitten, Tom Bell, and I sat around a table at Java Monkey and said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ 18 years on, and I’m getting calls from reporters to comment on its demise,” Wang wrote, adding, “Stay gold, Ponyboy.”

Readers contacted Decaturish asking for more information about the post.

Wingate soon jumped in on the thread with a clarification about what was happening.

“Hi Daren, as I think you know, I’m the VP of the Decatur Book Festival Board, and I can assure you and everyone reading your post, that this is not the demise of the festival,” Wingate wrote.  “In fact, the festival is in the strongest financial shape it’s been in a very long time. The curtain is not closing on the festival — we just need to explore options and opportunities for its future.”

She then provided the following announcement, which you can read on the Book Festival’s website by clicking here.

“It’s not the demise at all,” Wingate added in a follow-up phone interview with Decaturish. “We’re taking a pause here. We’re reevaluating some things. The festival is in good financial shape. We’re looking at some other opportunities and options. It’s time for an exploration, I would say.”

Wang removed the post shortly after Wingate chimed in about the festival’s future. He followed up with another post about the situation.

“I just got off the phone with Leslie Perry Wingate, the VP of the DBF board,” he wrote. “When I was still running the show, Leslie was one of the people that I could count on to make it happen. I posted earlier that I got a call about the demise of the festival, but it sure sounds like that was in error. Leslie tells me it will go on, and I absolutely believe her.”

This story was provided by WABE content partner Decaturish.