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Vermont Spring Book & Paper Fair Changes Hands
Over the years the Vermont Antiquarian Booksellers Association’s Spring Book & Paper Fair has been through a number of changes. Under the management of Greg Glade of Top of the World Books, it started in a hotel in South Burlington in 1993. After a few years I started managing the fair for the VABA, eventually moving it to a hotel in downtown Burlington. Over the years dealer and public attendance fluctuated with the vicissitudes of the antiquarian market, booming during the early days of the internet and then shrinking as many dealers started selling exclusively online.
Sadly, the pandemic forced a cancellation of the 2020 spring book fair only a week before it was to take place, but by the winter of 2021 (after the spring 2021 fair had also been cancelled) people were a little more comfortable meeting face-to-face and VABA decided to bring it back in 2022. However, the uncertainties of changing city regulations and the increasing costs in Burlington prompted another move - this time to downtown St. Albans. While a little more distant from the major population center of Burlington, the beautiful, historic auditorium in St. Albans City Hall with its wonderful natural lighting more than made up for it. Loyal bibliophiles followed the fair to the new location and the dealers who participated had a wonderful time despite the smaller crowds.
The move was controversial within the association, however. At the winter meeting, there was a lengthy discussion about the spring fair - should VABA keep running it, when should it happen, should it move back to Burlington, should there be something entirely different, are there still too many COVID cases to safely meet, is St Albans too small to support a show? There was an undeniable appeal to being situated in Vermont’s largest city, although some felt that recent safety and security concerns together with high costs outweighed that appeal. Since the pandemic many booksellers have decided against exhibiting at in-person events ever again, but others felt that bringing it back to Burlington would bring those booksellers back to the show. Ultimately, VABA decided not to hold a spring fair in 2023 and instead to concentrate on planning the August 13th summer fair in Bennington.
This decision saddened me, as I loved the new location. Many people moved to St. Albans during the pandemic, and the new look of downtown makes it appealing as a destination. With increasing numbers of customers coming north from Chittenden County for a day in downtown St. Albans, I felt that there was potential to grow the fair. Therefore, I've decided to run a 2023 spring book fair independently.
Moving the fair to May 7th avoids the winter snowstorms that have sometimes affected the fair in the past. It also allows time for our snowbirds to return from warmer climes. Downtown St. Albans has an increasing number of small and interesting shops and restaurants to entice visitors and, of course, The Eloquent Page is just down the street. Other planned changes include a partnership with 14th Star Brewing Company, who will have a cash bar on site for a more convivial book fair. Finally, in conjunction with St. Albans Community Arts we hope to have some authors present. Admission will be free to all, and a good turnout is expected. So, if you're in Vermont on May 7th or passing through on a spring road trip, consider checking out the new, expanded Vermont Spring Book & Paper Fair.
Donna Howard is the owner of The Eloquent Page - New, Used & Rare Books, and can be reached at (802) 527-7243 or 782-5527.