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Grantee Spotlight: A Q+A with Lexington Book Festival

Famed author Toni Morrison is quoted as saying, “…Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.” At North Carolina Humanities, books, reading, literacy, and literary heritage are important parts of our mission. Books are also vastly important to the newly-created Lexington Book Festival.

With a mission of celebrating the power of literature to foster inclusion and understanding, the festival proved to be an important community need, as nearly 500 people attended the festival during its first year. In 2023, North Carolina Humanities project grant funding helped further establish the Lexington Book Festival as an event the community now looks forward to every year.

This year’s Lexington Book Festival will be held Saturday, March 9, 2024, from 10 am – 5 pm at the Arts Davidson building at 202 N. Main Street in Lexington, NC. The festival will include 15 authors, book signings, vendors and more. All festival sessions are free to attend. You can see the full schedule and learn more about attending the festival by visiting:

We connected with Joan Dalusung, Vice Chair of the Lexington Book Festival, to learn more about this year’s festival and how books help foster connection.

How did the Lexington Book Festival start?

Joan: The Lexington Book Festival began when Sedley Abercrombie, the owner of Pig City Books, the only independent bookstore in Davidson County, noticed her in-store author event attendees wanting more. Sedley gathered some folks from the community, including librarians, educators, and avid readers, and said, “Hey, let’s see if we can put together a book festival!” Our planning committee for the first festival was just a group of passionate friends, but we were able to bring 15 outstanding authors to our community.

As a first-time festival, what helped you be successful?

Joan: The Lexington Book Festival is 100% volunteer operated so, of course, we have all our volunteers to thank! With support from the Friends of Lexington Library, we brought in a range of authors for readers of all ages and skill levels. We also partnered with Arts Davidson to secure space. The day after the first festival we said, “We should do this again and formalize this by becoming an official nonprofit.” We are excited to report that we’ve achieved official nonprofit status and are already planning for a festival in 2025. We are grateful to Arts Davidson, and particularly Amanda Feliciano, their director, because their partnership allowed us to apply for and secure grant funding from North Carolina Humanities for this year’s festival. We appreciate North Carolina Humanities working with us and being so responsive to all the questions that we had as a brand-new organization. North Carolina Humanities support meant we were able to move forward with the festival.

Featured Author Crystal Smith Paul photo by Matthew Schmidt; Featured Author Amber Smith

Why are books and community events like the Lexington Book Festival important?

Joan: The Lexington Book Festival recognizes the power of words, whether you’re reading them or listening to them. Literature introduces folks to new perspectives and new points of view. It can be so powerful to meet a published author in your classroom or see them on a local festival stage. Our main goal is having folks meet authors and read new stories. We hope that attendees see themselves reflected in those stories and learn to consider perspectives that they may never have encountered before. It’s also just exhilarating to get together with a bunch of other readers! Our Festival Chair, Angela Frith, says, “Reading is often thought of as a solitary pursuit, but if you’re in a book club or if you go to a festival, and you get around other people that like to read, it’s really thrilling to be around others who also find reading so fulfilling.” The Lexington Book Festival is about meeting authors, but it’s also about connecting with other readers in the community.

What can attendees expect at this year’s Lexington Book Festival?

Joan: The 2024 Lexington Book Festival is March 9 from 10 am – 5 pm. We will be hosting 15 diverse authors in a variety of panels and moderated conversations. This year our authors are: Sara Johnson Allen, Ashley Belote, Dawn Crawford, Lori Degman, Chrystal D. Giles, Robert Gwaltney, Jeffrey Dale Lofton, Kelly Starling Lyons, Stacy McAnulty, Scott Reintgen, Crystal Smith Paul, Amber Smith, Laura Whitfield, Dan Yaccarino and Phoebe Zerwick. Attendees can purchase books onsite, meet the authors, and get their books signed. We will also have about 40 vendors including self-published authors in the community, book vendors, artists, and food vendors. I’m very excited because the day before the festival we have arranged for five authors to visit students in Davidson County and Lexington City Schools for a total of seven visits! Lexington is actively expanding its cultural offerings, and hosting a book festival adds another facet to a vibrant community in Davidson County.

How can people support the Lexington Book Festival?

Joan: We are still looking for volunteers. People can also support us by donating to the festival. Please also sign up for our monthly newsletter and follow us on social media. You can do all this and more at:

About North Carolina Humanities’ Grantee Spotlights: NC Humanities’ Grantee Spotlights shine a light on the incredible work of our grantee partners, offering details about their funded project, and feature a Q&A with a team member(s) associated with the organization. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.