The 16th annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival took place over the weekend at the Harborside Event Center and Centennial Park in downtown Ft. Myers. Organizers estimate that 18,000 adults and children attend the free, day-long festival each year.
Outside in Centennial Park, kids could pick up a free book, meet their favorite authors, listen to stories and take workshops in topics like drawing and writing fiction. They could also compete for the Aspiring Author Awards, which were be awarded, as they are each year, to kids in each grade from kindergarten through high school in the categories of poetry, fiction and personal memoir.
There were plenty of lunch options, from Little Joe’s selection of Middle Eastern options to boxed deli lunches from Jason’s.
Inside the Event Center, book lovers could find more than 20 of their favorite authors, from all over the country, speaking on panels or solo. Notable among them were Jeff Lindsay, bestselling author of the Dexter series, which was the basis for the CBS and Showtime series, Dexter. Award-winning suspense novelist Laura Lippman shared the stage with fellow crime novelists Carla Norton and Randy Rawls, who discussed the inner workings of creating a suspenseful and realistic story for readers.
Books-a-Million provided an on-site bookstore where attendees could buy the books they had just heard about and shop for other titles under the warm Southwest Florida sun.
Vendors filled the Event Center halls as well as booths outside, offering books (of course), T-shirts, medical services and much more. Attendees could even get a Lee County Library card on site.
“The festival was a wonderful experience, both as a reader and an author,” says St. Petersburg author Steph Post. “I was impressed by the scope of the festival and its ability to showcase so many talented authors and provide such a variety of events for children, teens and adults. The atmosphere was exciting and vibrant and it was thrilling to see so many people enjoying and celebrating reading!”
The mission of the Festival, which is put on by Lee County Library System, has not changed much in 16 years. Among its goals: To encourage a love of reading, bring terrific authors to Southwest Florida, raise awareness of the services that Lee County libraries offer.
Cary Barbor is the host of the literary podcast Books and Authors.
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