The 20th annual Utah Humanities Book Festival is set to begin Sept. 14, with hundreds of literary events scheduled around the state through the end of October.
Organizers say the event is Utah’s oldest and only statewide book festival, and is aimed at improving communities by promoting reading and literature and by offering a platform to publicly discuss both.
Michael McLane, director of the festival, said this year Utah Humanities is partnering with 16 Utah communities, mostly along the Wasatch Front, to host 122 events. Festival-goers will be able to connect with local and national authors through panel discussions, book signings and conversations, McLane said.
“If we’ve done our jobs correctly, you’re really going to walk into something immersive,” he said.
The festival started in 1998 as a weekend event at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, but Utah Humanities has expanded the festival by partnering with libraries, community centers and cultural organizations. Today, the festival draws about 12,000 participants each year, according to the Utah Humanities website.
“We had maybe 12 to 15 authors (during the first year),” McLane said. “It was really just a Saturday. But other communities eventually started saying, ‘Hey, we want a piece of that,’ and here we are.”
Ogden and Weber County are featured heavily in this year’s rotation of events. Between Sept. 16 and Oct. 27, 16 festival events will be held in the county.
Danielle Susi, volunteer and public programs coordinator with the Union Station Foundation, said five events will be held at the Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave., Ogden. The station’s docket is highlighted by a “murder mystery” event Oct. 27, where a team of improvisers will entertain the audience with a comedic murder mystery tale.
The murder mystery registration is already full, but Susi said the same improvisers will be hosting a similar show at 9:30 p.m. Oct 7 and Oct 14 at The Comedy Loft, 3934 Washington Blvd. The show is recommended for ages 13 and older.
Events will also be held at Ogden High School, the Ogden Eccles Community Arts Center, the Ogden Nature Center, Weber State University, the Treehouse Museum and sever branches of the Weber County Library.
For a full listing of events, go to utahhumanities.org.
McLane said the festival has been able to thrive and expand because Utah’s literary community is a vibrant one. He pointed to Ogden as an exemplar.
“When you think about Ogden, it’s the most diverse place in the state,” he said. “You have a lot of perspectives converging in one place, which is what literature is all about. Literature helps us empathize with each other, it helps us understand each other.”
Ogden area author Kase Johnstun, who will participate in several of the festival’s events, echoed McLane’s sentiments, saying the city’s diversity has fueled its literary community.
“There are parts of the state where there is only one voice when it comes to literature,” Johnstun said. “But in Ogden, you have so many different voices, so many different styles, different kinds of authors — it really makes for an interesting scene.”