Minnesota’s first megafestival of books kicked off Saturday morning under sunny skies, as several thousand fans gathered to hear celebrity author Stephen King — and later dozens of other writers — share insights into literature and life.
It was a place for book nerds to shine.
“I’ve always wanted to write, and I am hoping this will give me some inspiration,” said Heidi Doe, a Minneapolis nurse in the crowd at the street fair next to the Loft Literary Center of Minneapolis, a sponsor of the festival.
Doe came with her brother Nick Grotjahn, who drove up from Winona. The siblings are both huge fans of King, and clutched a “fast pass” after his presentation to more quickly get an autographed book.
“It’s great to see so many people with a passion for reading,” said Grotjahn. “It’s something that brings people together.”
Wordplay, modeled after popular literary festivals around the country, rolled out two days packed with conversations with authors ranging from Amy Tan to Scott Turow and Dave Barry.
The event attracted a crowd spanning several generations, from students to retirees, and from across the metro area and beyond. Far more women appeared to have attended than men.
They strolled through a street festival featuring several stages and vendor booths offering things such as Book Lovers Soy Candles, Little Free Libraries, and an “Ask a Writer” opportunity.
The National Endowment for the Arts table urged passersby to “Write a Haiku.”
Jane Wallace grabbed a pen and paper and jotted down a haiku about winter turning to spring, and back to winter.
“This is Minnesota; it’s about weather,” joked Wallace, a property manager from Hopkins.
Although U.S. Bank Stadium provided a backdrop to the outdoor fair, Wordplay was nothing like recent big sports events held downtown.
It was a relatively quiet affair, with the main sounds being broadcast author conversations or people chatting. Attendees were more likely to carry hot coffee than cold beers. There was no deafening music.
This lower-key ambience was good news to folks such as Wallace, who came to learn about new authors and books. Said Wallace: “I wouldn’t come to this area for a sporting event, but I would battle the crowd for a literary event.”
Lindsey Sumstad, a high school senior from Forest Lake, strolled the festival with a notebook and pen. She was part of the student crowd, and had a distinct purpose.
“I had an assignment to go to a literary event and I chose this,” said Sumstad.
Sumstad came with her mom and took notes on remarks by the authors and literature lovers she met in the booths. She figured she chose the best literary event to attend for her class assignment.
Wordplay events continue through Sunday at the street festival in the 1000 block of S. Washington Avenue and at the Guthrie Theater and the Open Book literary center.