KENSINGTON – A break in the rain on Sunday permitted several thousand people to attend the annual Day of the Book Festival on Howard Avenue in Kensington.
The festival began in 2005, thanks to the efforts of Elisenda Sola-Sole, owner of the Kensington Row Bookshop, a popular used book store. Sola-Sole’s family founded the Pauli Bellet Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of Catalan culture. The inspiration for the festival came from the “El Dia del Libre” celebration in Barcelona, which in 1923 was merged with the city’s traditional Rose Festival. In these celebrations, authors and other merchants set up stalls along Barcelona’s main thoroughfare, La Rambla.
This year, the festival was held on the International Day of the Book, which was designated April 23 in 1995 by UNESCO in honor of the birthdate of William Shakespeare. In other years, the festival is held on the Sunday closest to the date.
Like its Spanish namesake, the Day of the Book Festival provides a venue for authors in a variety of genres and local merchants to sell their works and meet the public.
This year’s festival was the first for Kimberly and John Rodgers, a married couple from Cecil County. The Rodgers, who write jointly under the name K.J. Rodgers, are longtime fans of dystopian future stories such as the “Hunger Games” series. They published their debut novel, “Mogul,” last summer. The first of a planned trilogy, “Mogul,” concerns the introduction of a medical implant that improves bodily health but whose creators may have sinister intentions.
“Most dystopian fiction takes place after the fall, so we wanted to do something different, showing the events leading up to the fall,” Kimberly said.
“The festival’s been great,” John said. “The authors are very open, helping each other. We’ve been talking with the guy in the booth next to ours about swapping books later.”
Cerphe Colwell, a longtime disc jockey in the D.C. region, sold and signed copies of his new book, “Cerphe’s Up.” Co-written with Stephen Moore, the book is a memoir of Colwell’s encounters and interactions with various musical personalities over the years, beginning with his time at radio station WHFS, which was then located in Bethesda, in the early 1970s.
“I got into radio at a time when it was wide open,” said Colwell, who interviewed many musicians on WHFS, including George Harrison, Frank Zappa and Tom Waits. “Tom and Frank were the only two people I ever let smoke in the studio,” Colwell said. “I was one of the first five people in the country to play Bruce Springsteen on the radio in 1973, and the first time he came to WHFS for an interview, he got lost on the Beltway and was late.”
Alice Miller, a psychotherapist and garner, welcomed the opportunity to publicize the case of her granddaughter, Michelle Miller, a Rockville High School senior who was killed by an Army recruiter in a murder-suicide in 2013. Her book “All That Bright Light” is an account of Michelle’s life and the aftermath of her murder.
Mike Rabinovitz, a Rockville resident, attended the festival for the first time on Sunday.
“It’s incredible; I didn’t realize there were so many local authors in this area,” said Rabinovitz, who especially enjoyed hearing a presentation from an ex-submarine commander.
“It rained yesterday. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, and they said it was going to rain today, but it didn’t, so we’re taking this a sign that Mother Nature loves reading,” said Steve Piacente, a longtime journalist turned novelist who for several years has served as emcee at the festival. “When it has rained in the past, we’ve still had people show up, but that’s not as fun as it is today. At the end of the day, this is about people who still love to read. In this age of technology, when everybody is looking at their screens, that’s just a nice thing to see.” Piacente sold and signed copies of his novels, political thrillers “Bella” and “Bootlicker.”
Several local bands, including the Nighthawks and Sisters Uke and friends, provided musical entertainment.