Get ready for the North Park Book Fair
The inaugural North Park Book Fair will feature bookshops, authors, readings and more
Amy Hesselink has been pleased to see old customers for the first time in over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the state. The manager of La Playa Books finally opened the doors of the Point Loma bookstore in April, and she says business has been booming since then.
“I think the pandemic really hit home the fact that people need to support their local businesses, and it’s been way busier than it’s ever been, really,” Hesselink says.
One thing she has missed, however, is participating in a large-scale book fair where the store could show off some of its vast collection of rare and antiquarian books. She says the store loved to bring out its “most unusual items” to fairs, including antique ephemera, vintage children’s books and collectible art books.
“In the ’80s and ’90s, there were a lot more book fairs, and you could get a flavor and a taste for all these different book stores,” Hesselink says.
Enter the North Park Book Fair. The free festival, which takes place Saturday on North Park Way between 29th and Ray streets, will feature dozens of local bookstores, vendors and book-related merchants, as well as performances, readings and author appearances. The event not only marks the first time a book festival will be held in the neighborhood, but also serves as the first mass gathering event to take place since California’s full reopening in June.
“There used to be an annual book fair in Hillcrest years ago, and I’ve always wanted to see that come back,” says Justine Enitsuj, the owner of Verbatim Books and one of the fair organizers. “I was also trying to think of ways to have fun, safe events, and an outdoor street fair seemed like the best way. When I approached North Park Main Street about it, they were so supportive of the idea and have been so helpful with everything.”
Along with the North Park Thursday Market and North Park Main Street, a local business improvement organization, Enitsuj set out to get as many stores, nonprofits and people involved as possible. The final list for the fair is a proverbial who’s-who of local stores and literary enthusiasts.
“We are excited to include most of the independent bookstores in San Diego, as well as many of the local small presses and publishers,” says Enitsuj, who opened Verbatim in 2016.
Another one of the participating merchants is Haydee Yanez, who will be selling her signature Mexicons merchandise (think Mexican and Mexican-American icons fashioned to look like emojis) at the event. She used to display her Mexicons at fairs or outdoor markets every weekend before the pandemic, so this will be her first time working in a booth in over a year.
“These types of fairs were my way to connect with people,” says Yanez, who says sales of her crafts have been down throughout the pandemic year. “Online sales have increased a little bit lately, but people prefer to go to a market and connect with you and talk to you and see you in person.”
One organization that also depends on in-person events to thrive is So Say We All. The local literary and performing arts organization recently resurrected its monthly VAMP (Visual/Audio Monologue Performance) at the Whistle Stop Bar in South Park. Still, So Say We All’s executive director, Justin Hudnall, says gatherings like the North Park Book Fair helps the public become familiar with the non-profit’s overall mission.
“It’s a chance for us to hopefully meet a lot of people who are curious about what we have to offer,” says Hudnall, who has scheduled several local writers to read stories on the fair’s main stage.
The fair also presents a unique opportunity for local authors, independent presses and zine creators to show off their wares. One such author and publisher is Beatrice Zamora, who is looking forward to promoting and reading from her new children’s book, “Am I Blue or Am I Green?”
“Because the book came out during the pandemic, I haven’t had a chance to enjoy these types of activities yet so I’m looking forward to it,” says Zamora, who published the book on her own Tolteca Press.
Other activities at the fair include food merchants, poetry readings, book signings and a free book booth. A full list of participants and activities can be found on the Verbatim Books website (verbatim-books.com). When asked how it feels to have organized the first post-COVID festival in the neighborhood, Enitsuj says she’s thrilled.
“The best part of my job is creating fun and entertaining literary events and I’m excited to get back to that,” Enitsuj says. “It’s definitely fulfilling when I get to walk around at our events and see people having fun talking about books and art and poetry.”
North Park Book Fair
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 17
Where: North Park Way between 29th and Ray streets
Combs is a freelance writer.
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