4.5 Reasons to Attend the Gaithersburg Book Festival Instead of Preakness

For the past four years, I’ve faced an awful dilemma: choosing between Preakness and the Gaithersburg Book Festival, two stellar Maryland events held on the third Saturday in May.

Well, maybe not such an awful dilemma…

Since its inception in 2010, the Gaithersburg Book Festival has been on my list of must-attend events. The first two years I wasn’t able to attend because of a work commitment to the Preakness.

That changed last year.

Maryland Life at Gaithersburg Book Festival

The late great Maryland Life magazine at the 2013 Gaithersburg Book Festival. Photo by Shannon Morgan.

This year, I’m not just attending the festival; I have the honor of introducing author Beth Kanter, photographer Emily Goldstein and their book, Washington, DC Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the Nation’s Capital.

I will also be working at the Washington Independent Review of Books booth. Stop by and say hi!

If saying hi to me isn’t reason enough (kidding, that’s my half reason), here are four reasons (plus a bonus reason) why you should forgo the Preakness infield for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

The Authors and Their Books

Year after year, the Gaithersburg Book Festival delivers a stellar lineup of authors. Some notable names in attendance this year are Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena; Alice McDermott, author of Someone and many other titles; and Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time.

I might totally geek out seeing Alice McDermott again. I saw her speak last year at the Books Alive! conference, read Charming Billy in college and would totally love to take one of her classes at The Johns Hopkins University. But, I digress…

There will also be some famous foodies in attendance. Food writers Beth Kanter and Moncia Bhide and a few Food Network stars, too, as in The Neeleys and Warren Brown.

Featured authors will be giving talks, leading workshops and, of course, signing books. If you buy books from the Politics and Prose Book Store tent at the festival, not only will you help the local economy, you’ll also help fund future festivals — and there’s my bonus reason!

There are also loads and loads of used books for sale under the park pavilion. Last year, I discovered a box full of 1960s Harlequin Romances. Having been a Harlequin editor once upon a time, it was a real kick for me.

Harlequin Romances at the Gaithersburg Book Festival

1960s Harlequin Romances at the 2013 Gaithersburg Book Festival used book sale. Photo by Shannon Morgan.

Fun For the Kids, Too

Located on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall, the festival is set up in a park complete with playground and a pavilion just for kids. Inside the Children’s Village and YA Pavilion are activities and workshops, like “Writing With Your Child,” to inspire young readers and budding writers.

Several children’s book authors will be on hand to celebrate Children’s Book Week, most notably Tom Angleberger, author of the Origami Yoda series, and Rachel Renee Russell, author of The Dork Diaries.

Its Free!

Need I say more?

There’s also plenty of free parking.

You Can Still Watch the Preakness

Just afterwards. The festival ends at 6 p.m.; Preakness post time is 6:18 p.m. That’s plenty of time to drive to O’Malley’s Pub in Gaithersburg to watch the race.

Will I see you Saturday?


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  1. The shot of the ML banner made me all misty-eyed. Sigh.

  2. This sounds awesome Shannon! I am so going to be there, and will bring Hayden too! Thanks for the info 🙂
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