The Word on the Street Set for Sunday

September 21, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015
Canadian author Steven Heighton gives a reading in the Great Books Marquee. (Drew Stewart)

TORONTO—The Word on the Street is set to educate, entertain, and remind Torontonians of the importance of literature at its annual street festival on Sunday.

The Word on the Street festivals are held across Canada in Vancouver, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener, Halifax, and Toronto. Vancouver’s festival will run for three days, Sept. 28-30, while the festivals in the other cities will be one-day events scheduled on Sunday, Sept. 23.

In Toronto, the 23rd annual The Word On The Street festival opens to visitors from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. All the events are free.

“Toronto is the largest festival site for Word on the Street. It’s also the [site] that began it all,” says The Word on the Street Event and Marketplace Coordinator Kristen Gentlemen.

Expansion is always something on the horizon, but right now they’re sticking to a one-day festival to maintain the integrity of the Sunday, she explains.

More than 200,000 visitors attend every year.

“We host the largest outdoor book store in Canada, with 278 exhibitors, all different publishers, all different magazines, and they’re all here to show you their great material,” Gentlemen says.

All authors attending the festival are Canadian, offering visitors a great chance to find new home-grown talent, like David Suzuki and Jeff Rubin, who will appear at 3 p.m. at the festival’s Scotiabank Giller Prize Bestsellers Stage.

Welcoming eBooks, eReaders

Crowds shop the 2011 Exhibitor Marketplace. (Drew Stewart)

Though ebooks are on the rise, already dominating traditional print in the U.K. (114 eBooks sold per 100 prints sold), Gentlemen says the festival hasn’t seen that impact turnout.

They have in fact welcomed eBooks and have hosted a “Sony Reader Lounge” in previous years, where people can speak to Sony staff and learn about eReaders.

The festival added “Digital Drive” in 2010, allowing people to discuss how the digital revolution affects all aspects of publishing, including social media, eBook publishing, online magazines, and more.

The Scribendi.com Workshop Marquee will host a segment called “Straight to eBook” this year, where an ebook author and Iguana Books, an eBook publisher, will discuss the revolution.

Many exhibitors have both paper and ebook versions of their books.

Expanded Program Site

The festival is within walking distance from the Queen’s Park or Museum stations on the Yonge-University-Spadina line, or the Bay or St.George stations on the Bloor-Danforth line.

The festival is also bike-friendly. “Festival patrons are encouraged to leave their car at home and use pedal power to make their way to The Word On The Street,” states the website. A free bike checkup will be given at the festival’s south end.

This year, the Toronto location has expanded its program site, stretching from the Queen’s Park turf, where the festival has been constrained to in the last eight years. Now it stretches from Bloor to College.

“We’re interspersing the author venues into the exhibitor marketplace, so we’re going for a very lively site location,” says Gentlemen.

It has also stretched its programming to 13 venues, with two new additions this year—a non-fiction and a Penguin Pavilion venue.

Renowned Programming

Visitors take in The Word On The Street in 2011. (Drew Stewart)

The event values the family feel. “For the past 22 years, The Word On The Street has been renowned for the quality and diversity of its family programming, and our 23rd festival will aim to do the same,” the website states.

Kids will find lots of fun activities to enjoy, such as hearing the classic “Alligator Pie Party” told by author Dennis Lee, creating felt puppets, learning origami, or making a hands-on collage.

There are also many programs for adults, including Canadian venues of young adult books, writing workshops, and non-fiction.

“It’s basically a book lovers’ paradise … we’re the kickoff to the fall book-buying season,” explains Gentlemen.

A donation to the Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy offers the chance to win a $100 prize pack of books. Visitors can also friend an author and get their Canadian books signed.

The event proudly delivers to the public many up-and-coming if not already famous Canadian authors like Susan Swan and 245 others. Exhibitors are mainly from the book and magazine publishing industry.

The Epoch Times is a proud sponsor of The Word on the Street.

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