The SCBook Festival has grown successfully over the past 18 years. Since its debut in the spring of 1997, it has grown progressively in size and consequence, becoming the nationally recognized and regionally dominant book festival that it is today.
2015 SCBook Festival planning has begun! More details will be posted on this website as our festival dates approach, so please check back often. Special events registrations, etc will be posted when details are finalized. The festival will be held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia, SC on May 16 & 17, 2015.
In order to fully understand this exciting future, it is helpful to reflect on the past. How did the SCBook Festival develop from the dream of a few to a reality for thousands?
The first book festival in South Carolina occurred in 1988 and was supported by the South Carolina Arts Commission, with financial help from The Humanities CouncilSC and the College of Charleston. This first event called “Carolina Connections” focused on contemporary writers who either lived in South Carolina or who had made significant contributions to the state. Carolina Connections re-established links for many writers who no longer lived in South Carolina, helping them identify themselves as part of a vigorous literary community.
Undoubtedly, “Carolina Connections” laid an important foundation for emphasizing literary arts and regional talents, whetting the South Carolinian appetite for book-related events. However, it was almost 10 years later, on the 25th Anniversary of The Humanities CouncilSC, before the idea for an annual book festival of national and even international scope was conceived. Robert D. Hazel, Chairperson of The Humanities CouncilSC board at that time, collected compelling information about the triumphs of other national book festivals and consequently organized the first SCBook Festival Advisory Committee. After 18 months of planning and coordination, his vision came to fruition. The 1997 SCBook Festival, held at the Koger Center on April 19th, was a huge success, with attendance far exceeding expectations at well over 2,000. Well-known authors such as Jill McCorkle, Dori Sanders, John Jakes and Nikki Finney helped attract the large crowds.
Dazzled with their achievement, The Humanities CouncilSC Board of Directors immediately began planning the next book festival, pledging to make it an annual event. They sought a larger venue, moving the 1998-2001 festivals to The Carolina Coliseum, and expanded the event to two days. The quality of invited authors continued to be high, with many well-known names ornamenting the guest list, including Edward Ball, Jack Bass, Jill Conner Browne, Robert Olen Butler, Walter Edgar, Dottie Benton Frank, Gail Godwin, Josephine Humphreys, Jan Karon, Bret Lott, Reynolds Price, Anita Shreve, Nicholas Sparks, and Mickey Spillane. The festivals of this period were sometimes themed, such as the 1999 festival “You Are What You Read” and the 2001 festival “Tell About the South,” allowing diligent festival-goers to come away with a deeper sense of meaning about books, the art of writing and the authors.
In 2002, The Humanities CouncilSC was again forced to find a better location for the thousands of book enthusiasts who were thronging to the festival. From 2002-2004, the SCBook Festival was held at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds, and these years boasted the highest attendances yet, peaking at 6,000 in 2004. David Baldacci, Madison Smartt Bell, Bernard Cornwell, Jeffery Deaver, Shirley Anne Grau, Sue Monk Kidd, Cassandra King, Joyce Carol Oates, John Saul, Lee Smith, and all of the other acclaimed guest authors undoubtedly had something to do with the popularity of the festival both regionally and nationally. While readings, discussions, panels, and book signings formed the core of the SCBook Festival, the Council also developed several popular ancillary events such as receptions, silent auctions, workshops, and an authors’ dinner on Saturday evenings, making the festival a true hub of entertainment and culture.
With a central and upscale venue in the middle of downtown Columbia, the SCBook Festival continues to grow. The 2005 festival was the first to be held in the new Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, a definite improvement in spacing and location. The Humanities CouncilSC Staff and SCBook Festival Advisory Committee continue to research and invite nationally and regionally popular authors in order to attract a large and diverse audience. These authors bring with them a wide array of specialties, including contemporary fiction, biography, food and beverages, travel, children’s books, history and more.
Since 1997, funding for the SCBook Festival has come largely from the non-profit community and related sources, including The Humanities CouncilSC, the South Carolina State Library, and the South Carolina Arts Commission. Over the years, the SCBook Festival’s success has been made possible by corporations and individuals who have given generously. This year, as we celebrate the 19th anniversary of the SCBook Festival, The Humanities CouncilSC Board continues to expand its support base to the business community, corporations and individuals who have the same vision of bringing together thousands of people for a weekend of literary celebration in May. Hopefully, the whole state will embrace the SCBook Festival as the wonderfully rich, educational, and entertaining event that it is, making 2015 a landmark year in its already impressive history. If you would like to become a sponsor of this event, please visit our sponsor page or call our office at 803-771-2477.