Earlier this month I wrote about the upcoming Florence Festival of Books. The event is usually annual, but it was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. I was excited to return this year. (Fun fact: the 1st annual Florence Festival of Books was in 2011– which was the year my first book was published. As a result, I can proudly say that I’ve attended every year!).
This year got off to a bit of a rough start. It was stormy on the Oregon coast Friday night. I’m such a light sleeper that the strong winds and heavy rains woke me up several times. Fortunately, by Saturday morning the storm was letting up. It rained off and on during my drive to Florence, but it cleared up about an hour after the festival opened.
I knew when I signed up that this year’s festival would be different. In fact, for the week leading up to the event, I half expected to receive a message saying it had been cancelled. We’ve been experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases on the Oregon coast over the past few months (mostly due to the Delta variant). But, they decided to go ahead with the event while implementing several safety efforts.
In addition to requiring everyone (both vendors and visitors) to wear masks inside the Florence Events Center, they limited the number of booths. If I remember right, they said there was 1/3 less booth this year than in past years. This allowed them to space out the tables which made it easier for participants to practice social distancing. They also had hand sanitizer stations set up throughout the building.
Despite advertising the event through all of the regular channels, this year’s book festival didn’t draw as many visitors as it usually does. Given the circumstances, this wasn’t surprising; but, if I’m being brutally honest, it was still disappointing.
I’m incredibly grateful to the people that did attend the event. I enjoyed chatting with the visitors to my booth. Since I wrote two books on local history, I tend to catch the attention of fellow history enthusiasts. This inevitably leads to interesting conversations! I also enjoyed catching up with several of my fellow west coast authors.
I’m looking forward to next year’s Florence Festival of Books. Fingers crossed that the world has returned to “normal” by then!
~ H. S. Contino