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Authors Linda Ronstadt, Bernie Sanders at this weekend’s Tucson Festival of Books

Tucson will host one of the biggest literary festivals in the country this weekend — and books are only part of the story.

The Tucson Festival of Books is more than a reader’s dream. Yes, there will be approximately 300 authors, including Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Linda Ronstadt and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, talking about their books. But visitors can also see rockets and telescopes, acrobats performing Alice in Wonderland, and cooking demonstrations. Melanie Morgan is the festival’s director.  

“My understanding is that 75% of the people who come to the festival never step foot in an author session. They just walk around, they see the vendors, they buy the books, they do the activities in Science City, they walk through the kids area,” she said.

About 140,000 visitors are expected at the University of Arizona mall on Saturday, March 4 and Sunday, March 5. 

Author discussions and book signings will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, some events require a ticket. All sessions are free.

“I think people don't realize that you get to meet some of their favorite authors and hear the talk about their process-which is, yes, it is an intellectual pursuit and maybe not everyone is a huge fan of that but these people have big personalities and they’re a lot of fun,” Morgan said.

Tucson’s festival is a volunteer-driven event. Morgan said about 2,000 people volunteer over the weekend and about 200 devote time year round to planning and organizing.

Festival co-founders Bill Viner, Brenda Viner, Bruce Beach, John Humenik and Frank Farias spent two years planning and organizing the first event in 2009, which attracted about 50,000 people.

The event will include exhibitors such as booksellers and other literary-related services, plus many food vendors

Visitors to the festival may park free of charge in the Park Avenue or Highland garages, permitted spaces or surface lots available on the UA campus with the exception of:

  • Second Street Garage (No general parking. Reserved for authors and festival VIPs).
  • Designated handicapped spaces. (Always reserved for those with handicapped permits).
  • Locations designated as 24-hour reserved spaces.

The Cherry Avenue, Sixth Street, Tyndall, South Stadium and Main Gate (credit only) garages are available for a fee of $5; entry after 4 p.m. is free.

Are services for the disabled provided? How do I arrange special accommodations?

Yes, services are provided and special accommodations may be arranged. The UA Disability Resource Center coordinates these functions for the festival. Please contact DRC directly at 520-621-3268 Voice/TTY or [email protected] in advance of the festival to learn how accommodations may be provided. 

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.