Local residents and a new fiscal sponsor will help Missoula keep its annual book festival.
The newly named Montana Book Festival will be held Sept. 10-12, according to an announcement made Tuesday.
Last fall, Humanities Montana announced it was pulling out as the primary organizer of the Montana Festival of the Book after 15 years.
The organization – a statewide, independent nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities – said it needed to focus on its educational programs serving the entire state instead of a Missoula-centric event like the festival.
It said it would assist any interested parties who wanted to volunteer to organize the festival.
By early November, some local residents held meetings to look at continuing the festival.
One of those residents was Barbara Theroux of Fact & Fiction, an independent bookstore in downtown Missoula.
Kim Anderson, who was at the helm of the book festival for years, told Theroux last week, "You're inheriting a teenager," Theroux said.
"That became the perfect analogy," Theroux said. The festival needs to identify a number of things, she said: who they are and how they're going to grow.
Theroux's fellow directors on the Montana Book Festival Association are Garth Whitson of Shakespeare & Co., Missoula Public Library director Honore Bray and book publisher John Rimel of Mountain Press.
Other community partners include the Open Country Reading Series, Tell Us Something and the 406 Writers’ Workshop.
Serving as fiscal sponsor is the Missoula Cultural Council, a nonprofit arts agency that coordinates, promotes and develops arts and cultural activities in the city and county.
For legal purposes, the Missoula Cultural Council is using its nonprofit 501(c)(3) status so the book festival can accept donations.
“The annual book festival is a great local tradition, and we’re thrilled to help with this transition,” Cultural Council executive director Tom Bensen said in a news release.
Organizers said the festival will feature familiar events such as a poetry slam, a luncheon with an author and an authors’ reception.
In addition, there will be some new venues and events – the Dennison Theatre, the Roxy Theater and a "Pie and Whiskey" reading.
Theroux said it's too early in the process to share many other details about the festival. They've just finished up the organizational challenges. Now comes the creative part, she said, and they just started accepting submissions this week.
She said it's possible the number of panels or authors may be scaled back.
Publishers are now releasing their fall catalogs, which helps determine which authors the festival could recruit and vice versa.
She said that with 15 years of back history, major publishers and authors are aware of the festival and it could still get headliners such as Sherman Alexie.
The Missoula Public Library will be helping with the programming on levels, said director Bray. The library has been involved with the festival for years, and will bring new ideas to help it continue, she said. Those include a Booking It! race the weekend of the festival, and a slate of children's programming.
Overall, Bray said previous attendees should expect some new programs and some of the old favorites.
"It'll be a good thing," she said. "It wouldn't be the same without it."
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