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Tucson will host 130,000 at annual volunteer-run book festival on March 9-10

One of the biggest book festivals in the country will return to Tucson in March with new leadership.

While the Tucson Festival of Books is run by volunteers, they’re working under the guidance of a new executive director: Welz Kauffman who’s been on the job since mid-January. He spent 20 years as president and CEO of the Ravinia Festival, North America’s oldest outdoor music festival. 

“When you think of the size of metropolitan Tucson, and the fact that this comes off, and 130,000 people often attend, it's rather staggering,” he said.

After moving to Tucson from Chicago, Kauffman quickly discovered how important the festival is to the community.

“And the one thing that everybody knew, whether they were at the supermarket or the gym or at a department store or at a car dealership or a gas station, everybody knew the Festival of Books, everybody," he said.

The free event will feature more than 300 authors, entertainment, food trucks and children’s activities. Kauffman describes it as a street fair.

“And this book festival is less stuffy, I think, because of that. It’s more fun. And I’m not against stuffy, I worked in classical music, there’s nothing stuffier in the world but this has a sense of freedom and happiness and discovery,” he said. 

The 15th Tucson Festival of Books will take place March 9 and 10 at the University of Arizona. 

Steering committee co-chair Trisa Schorr said volunteers help keep the event free

“We have over 2,400 volunteer slots," she said. "The total volunteer hours just for the weekend, not including the work up through the festival, is 19,000 volunteer hours, which is pretty stunning.”

More event details from the Tucson Festival of Books

"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:

  • 2nd Street Garage (reserved for authors and festival VIPs).
  • Designated handicapped spaces (always reserved for those with disabled permits).
  • Locations designated as 24-hour reserved spaces.

"The Cherry Avenue, Sixth Street, Tyndall, South Stadium and Main Gate garages are available for a small 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."

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