The AJC Decatur Book Festival is the largest independent book festival in the country and one of the five largest overall. Since its launch, more than 1,000 world-class authors and hundreds of thousands of festival-goers have crowded the historic downtown Decatur square to enjoy book signings, author readings, panel discussions, an interactive children's area, live music, parades, cooking demonstrations, poetry slams, writing workshops, and more.
The DBF is a community based non-profit that counts on your donations to operate each year. We are a 501(c)3 and your donation is tax deductible.
In February, 2005 Daren Wang hatched a hare-brained idea to establish a festival celebrating the spoken/written word. He enlisted other dreamers and doers who had hatched versions of the same idea including Tom Bell, Linda Harris, Richard Lenz, Alice Murray, Bill Starr and Judy Turner. Together, using a stone soup model, everyone brought what they had and the magic began brewing.
Wang said, “We ended up with a team that not only knew the book business, but also media and marketing, local businesses, and how to put together the nuts and bolts of a festival.”
It took 18 months of full-time volunteer work to bring together the inaugural festival, which drew over 100 authors and 50,000 people to downtown Decatur over Labor Day weekend, 2006.
The event got rave reviews, and festival visitors and authors fell in love with Decatur. The city’s appeal — a combination of supportive local businesses and restaurants, eager and able volunteers, and the ability to walk easily from venue to venue — contributed to the remarkable festival spirit.
Building on the success of the inaugural event, the 2007 festival involved twice as many authors and several new venues. The MARTA plaza became the crossroads for the festival and the 2007 event drew 60,000 people, sending the DBF well on its way to becoming a permanent fixture in Atlanta.
“We always knew Atlanta had a thriving writing and book community, but it needed a centerpiece to bring all the parts together,” said founding program director Tom Bell. “That’s what the festival does best.”
The festival continues to thrive and grow, building strategic partnerships, attracting high-profile authors, offering a variety of creative activities for adults and children, and adding components such as art|DBF with a variety of music, dance, theatre performances and visual art installations while at the same time focusing on its mission to encourage a love of reading and writing for people from all walks of life.
The DBF has officially come of age and is now a significant part of the nationwide landscape with a community that embraces it, authors who are eager to attend, and sponsors who stay committed to it. At the same time, the DBF maintains a spirit of fun and childlike wonder as it celebrates the written and spoken word.
Bookzilla has been the official mascot and face of the AJC Decatur Book Festival since 2009. You’ll find him leading the Festival parades and talking to fellow book lovers when he’s not writing the next great American novel in his lair beneath the streets of Decatur.
IN THE BEGINNING, a tiny green lizard with an oddly but endearingly misshapen head was an experiment subject in an underground Tokyo laboratory. One day, the scientists overextended their electricity use, causing a mass evacuation-except for the poor little lizard, who was still trapped in his glass case. A test tube flew into the case from above, and the little lizard used it to escape out of the case and into the air duct. After some traveling through ventilation shafts and sewers he found himself in a public library, where he spent many days reading about far-off lands. One such place was the mythical land of Decatur, a town rumored to hold host to one of the largest gatherings of bibliophiles, book-lovers and reading enthusiasts. As soon as the little lizard read about this, he knew he wanted to see it for himself!
So he scurried to an airport and latched himself onto the underside of a wing using his BookJaw™, almost all the way to the Atlanta airport. Sadly, he fell off right near the end and plummeted into the Chattahoochee River, where Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin found him, saw his endearing little BookJaw™, and right away knew where to take him-to Decatur!
Shirley handed him to Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd, who patted the little lizard on the head and told him that, someday, he would help the book festival grow bigger than ever before! He let the little lizard loose in the DeKalb County Public Library for three years, where the lizard read and read and read, growing as he took in more stories and knowledge from each page he looked through. (Even though the library patrons sometimes tried to catch him or shoo him out.) Finally, three years later, he had grown very much-even taller than Mayor Floyd!-and thus earned the name that those who would witness him rampaging around downtown Decatur would later call him, a mere hint of the bookstrosity he truly is: BOOKZILLA! BOOOOOOOOK!!