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You need light to read, right? So this move makes perfect sense.

Come Nov. 1, the city’s annual Light City and Baltimore Book festivals, which have traditionally taken place in April and September, respectively, will be combined for one free 10-day celebration, under the theme “Brilliant Baltimore.” Officials insist this isn’t a matter of trying to increase the festivals’ popularity, but is rather due to a confluence of weather, book-publishing schedules and earlier sunsets.

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For Light City, which will be brightening Baltimore’s evenings for the fourth time this year, the determining factor is that it gets darker earlier in November (when daylight saving time is no longer a factor; it ends Nov. 3), than in April. And the earlier it gets dark, the more visitors can enjoy the illuminated art installations that attracted an estimated 442,500 visitors in 2018, says Kathleen Hornig, festivals director for the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, the nonprofit that stages both Light City and the Baltimore Book Festival (as well as Artscape).

“We had been taking a look at Light City and some of the feedback we had gotten after the festival’s first three years,” she says. “When the event was in April, it didn’t get dark until 8 or 8:30, and folks with families and folks who worked downtown felt like that was keeping them from coming to enjoy the festival.”

Children play on "The Pool" by Jen Lewin, a series of color-changing circles that react to the movement of festival-goers qat one of Light City's installations last spring.
Children play on "The Pool" by Jen Lewin, a series of color-changing circles that react to the movement of festival-goers qat one of Light City's installations last spring. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

As for the book festival, a city tradition since 1995 that moved from Mount Vernon to the Inner Harbor in 2014, changing patterns in the publishing industry helped push the date back. Having it in November, closer to the holiday buying season, should attract more authors, whose appearances are the festival’s biggest draws.

“We were seeing this trend, that more and more books were dropping in the fall, as opposed to right after Labor Day,” Hornig says. “Tweaking the dates of Light City to coincide with daylight saving time ending, and pushing the book festival a little later into the fall — we thought, ‘We should put the two of them together and just create a mega-event that shines a light on Baltimore.’”

Michael Bowman, part of the Fells Point-based Formstone Castle Collective that will be part of Light City for the third time, likes the idea of moving to November and combining the two festivals. “It’ll be getting darker earlier, so people can come out with their families,” he said. “I’m really hoping people will stay downtown, maybe get some dinner, hang out more downtown. I hope it benefits the restaurants.”

"We thought, ‘We should put the two of them together and just create a mega-event that shines a light on Baltimore.’ ”


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Likewise, Emily Miller, store manager for the Ivy Bookshop, is looking forward to the combined festival and the new date — not least because the old Labor Day weekend dates for the book festival fell squarely in the summer, and it wasn’t always fun sitting outside, even surrounded by books.

“It’s so much less hot, hopefully,” she says.

Details for the combined festival are still being finalized, but BOPA is bent on expanding the offerings — especially of the book festival, which will be growing from last year’s three days, which attracted an estimated 100,000 visitors, to 10 days encompassing two weekends. The footprint of the festival itself will be bigger; while last year’s took place on the west and south shores of the Inner Harbor, the 2019 version will also extend to Pier 5, with 150 exhibitor and dealer tents set up. And in an effort to avoid some of the vagaries of the weather, all author appearances and presentations will be held in the Literary Salon’s new indoor location, at the IMET Columbus Center, 701 E. Pratt St.

Shelved books bask in the sun during the Baltimore Book Festival.
Shelved books bask in the sun during the Baltimore Book Festival. (Photo by Monica Lopossay)

Authors who have been lined up for the festival include chef and television host Carla Hall (“Carla’s Soul Food"), activist and actor Hill Harper, New York Times bestselling author Dave Cullen (”Columbine" and “Parkland”), novelist of African-based science fiction Nnedi Okorafor (“Wakanda Forever”), chef and advocate for the Type 1 diabetic community Sam Talbot;, Baltimore author Barbara Bourland (“Fake Like Me”), poet and activist Sonia Sanchez, social justice advocate and author Chris Wilson, and Ibram Kendi, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for “Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.”

Carla Hall is among the authors appearing at the festival. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
Carla Hall is among the authors appearing at the festival. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images) (Jamie McCarthy/Getty)

Light City will feature 20 illuminated art installations, the work of artists from France, Canada, Portugal, the Netherlands and New Zealand, as well as Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The projects were chosen from more than 125 applications. They will include Kevin Blackistone’s “Radiant Flux,” an interactive piece with a mirrored surface that reflects both sunlight and moonlight, and Antonin Fourneau’s “Waterlight Graffiti,” a wall composed of thousands of LED lights that go on when they come in contact with water.

As in past years, the Light City footprint will be extended throughout the city by the Neighborhood Lights program. Ten grants of $5,000 each will be awarded to groups interested in staging illuminated events, projects, installations or performances. In addition, eight branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library will be immersed in light-related activities for one night each. Participating locations are the main library and the Brooklyn, Walbrook, Southeast Anchor, Forest Park, Herring Run, Northwood and Orleans branches.

Live music will be featured throughout the festivals, from bands including Funsho (Top 40), Eman the Heartbreak (hip hop), Jah Works (reggae), Outcalls (pop), Survival Society (alt rock) and Suga Grits (funk/jam). The combined festivals will end with a fireworks display beginning at 9:45 p.m. Nov. 10.

Hours for the Baltimore Book Festival and Light City 2019 are noon-10 p.m. Nov. 1-3, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Nov. 4-10. brilliantbaltimore.com.

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