Kensingston’s Day of the Book festival started small back in 2004.
“There were 11 authors on the sidewalk,” said founder Elisenda Sola-Sole, owner of the Kensington Row Bookshop on Howard Avenue, which sells unusual, used and out-of-print books.
Now, nearly a decade later, Sola-Sole is expecting more than 100 authors, publishers, literary groups and community organizations to participate in the annual street festival on Sunday, rain or shine.
“It grows every year,” she said. “Our mission ... is to showcase the local literary talent but also the uniqueness and charm of Kensington.”
The free festival, which stretches for three blocks along and near Howard Street parallel to the railroad tracks, features books, live music, food and activities for children — and, in recent years, the visual arts.
“There’s something to do for everybody,” Sola-Sole said.
New this year is the “moveable feast” food court in the parking lot near the historic Kensington train station off Howard Avenue. Four food trucks — Curley’s BBQ, Carmen’s Italian Ice, Frankly...Pizza and Thatsalata! — will be serving lunch, and there will also be places to rest.
“You can sit down and eat and listen to the bands,” Sola-Sole said.
The Atomic Swing Club will play rockabilly swing from noon to 2 p.m., and the Nighthawks will play roots rock and the blues from 2 to 4 p.m.
This year, the Gala Artisan Jewelry & Gifts will present its first arts and crafts festival in the parking lot on Armory Avenue. Book artist Sushmita Mazumdar will demonstrate how to make a story book, and there will be music by Side by Side, Doris & Scott and Silver Creek.
A group of regional artists will also present the second annual Morris L. Parker Art Festival, a juried art show, in the Howard Avenue Antique Village courtyard.
“People are joining in, wanting to be part of the festival,” Sola-Sole said.
In the authors’ tent near Armory Avenue, Rockville novelist Steve Piacente will read from his second book, “Bootlicker,” a prequel to his first book, “Bella.”
In “Bootlicker,” Piacente writes about the intertwining lives of a white racist senator and a black man running for office in 1992, hoping to become the first black Congressman since the Civil War.
The story is fiction, but it is grounded in the political insight Piacente gained as a Washington correspondent for a Charleston, S.C., newspaper. He said one thing that frustrated him as a reporter was seeing his stories cut to fill a shrinking news hole, which is why he enlisted in the writing program at Johns Hopkins University in the late 1990s.
“The more interesting parts of the stories weren’t getting in the paper,” he said. “I had a deep desire to blow the stories out, to develop characters and build anticipation, but I didn’t have the techniques.”
Piacente uses TV interviews, videos, Facebook, Twitter and Skype to promote his self-published books, and he also writes a blog for writers about his marketing experiences.
“One of the reasons I really enjoy this is meeting people face to face,” Piacente said of attending festivals.
Also reading on Sunday will be Bethesda author Ruth Guyer who wrote “A Life Interrupted: The Long Night of Marjorie Day,” the true story of a Wellesley College graduate who went to England’s Oxford University in 1925 to study. Day fell into a coma and mysteriously lost touch with reality for 17 years, spending most of the time in a Pennsylvania mental hospital, before inexplicably regaining her health and resuming an academic career at Mount Vernon College in Washington, D.C.
Day, who retired to seaside town of Rockport, Mass., died in 1991 at the age of 98.
“I was astounded when I heard the story,” said Guyer, who first learned about it from a neighbor in Bethesda who happened to be one of Day’s friends.
A medical writer at the National Institutes of Health at the time, Guyer spent the next 35 years solving the mystery of what afflicted Day weaving into the book the story of her own exhaustive research.
“It’s a remarkable story, she was one of a kind,” Guyer said.
There will also be plenty to do for children at the book festival.
New this year are children’s poetry readings by members of a group headed by librarian Eve Burton, who is also bringing back the Twinbrook Tellers made up of young storytellers ages 8 to 18.
Kensington Mayor Peter Fosselman will read to children, and there will also be a scavenger hunt.
Retired kindergarten teacher Marianne Jacobs of Bethesda is providing plastic insects for the hunt that relate to her first self-published book, “Hoppy’s Leap of Faith,” about a brave little grasshopper who jumps out of his grassy home onto the lapel of a teacher’s jacket. The teacher takes him along on an exciting adventure to see the insect zoo at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
“It’s about leaping out of your environment,” Jacobs said. “He was very curious, and he took a risk.”
The Kensington street festival is modeled on the Day of the Book and the Rose in Catalonia, Spain, celebrated on the Sunday closest to April 23. On that day book stalls and rose sellers line La Rambla, the wide, tree-lined boulevard that cuts through the heart of Barcelona.
The day honors Saint George, the patron saint of Catalonia since the 1400s, who according to legend saved a princess by slaying a dragon from his white horse. The dragon’s blood spilled on the ground and from that spot grew a red rose.
Coincidentally, Spain’s greatest writer, Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote Europe’s first modern novel — the tale of Don Quixote – died on April 22, 1616, a day before the death of Shakespeare. In 1926, the Spanish government named April 23 as Book Day, which is celebrated with particular brio in Barcelona, also the publishing capital of Catalonia and of Spain.
The book festival in Kensington has become a way to celebrate not only books but also the community.
“I’m very happy with what it’s become,” said Sola-Sole. “It was a vision we had, and the community and the town have had. It’s become a real tradition in the town of Kensington.”