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SunLit Festival kicks off in St. Petersburg April 1

The literary festival offers a weekend of books, poetry, writing and plenty of events for kids.
Folks take a literary walking tour around Mirror Lake, the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club and City Hall as part of the SunLit Festival in 2018. A similar tour will be offered during the SunLit Festival when it returns to St. Petersburg from April 1-3.
Folks take a literary walking tour around Mirror Lake, the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club and City Hall as part of the SunLit Festival in 2018. A similar tour will be offered during the SunLit Festival when it returns to St. Petersburg from April 1-3. [ JEREMIAH KHOKHAR | Courtesy of Jeremiah Khokhar ]
Published Mar. 29

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, The SunLit Literary Festival happens April 1-3 around St. Petersburg, bringing a weekend full of “litertainment.” In previous years, the festival produced by literary group Keep St. Pete Lit spanned 16 days. But the jam-packed schedule includes many events that combine being outside and walking with literary exercises, and several events for kids.

The festival’s opening night party at The Factory St. Pete on Friday is a fundraiser for Keep St. Pete Lit’s youth programs, which include tutoring in schools and the community by people who have taught in the school system.

“It’s money for the kids,” said Keep St. Pete Lit founder Maureen McDole. “We’re not just doing homework help, we’re actually doing assessments, grouping kids where they need to go. We’re also wanting to grow where we’re going into the day cares and doing literacy directly with the day care kids.”

The youth programs also include creative writing classes and Word! Book Boxes that offer culturally diverse books for free in neighborhoods in St. Petersburg.

McDole emphasizes that these efforts are from a “wonderful community.”

The party is themed “Where the Wild Things Are” and will feature art installations and entertainment inspired by the Maurice Sendak book. Bands Better Strangers and Eugene Snowden will provide the tunes.

A Meet the Authors event with St. Petersburg Press will happen, with founder Joe Hamilton making a tribute to St. Petersburg’s literary community.

The Roy Peter Clark Award honoring an “area resident for contributions to reading, writing, literacy and community” will be presented to Colette Bancroft, the Tampa Bay Times‘ book editor.

Bancroft joked that when she found out about the award, and that it would be presented on April 1 (April Fools’ Day), she thought, “Wait a minute...”

But seriously: “I’m delighted,” she said. “It’s very nice to be recognized for doing something I love doing.”

Here is the schedule.

Friday

6th Annual SunLit Festival Kick Off Party: $35, $55 with Fairgrounds St. Pete admission, $250 VIP, $1,000 sponsor. 6 p.m.-midnight. 2622 Fairfield Ave. S. ticketmaster.com.

39th Annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair: The largest and longest-running book fair in the Southeast runs Friday through Sunday at the St. Petersburg Coliseum. This year’s theme is The Children’s Hour, “celebrating books for young readers and the people who love them.” It features more than 100 sellers bringing books, maps, prints, postcards, ephemera and paper collectibles. Tickets benefit the St. Petersburg Public Library. $10 for the Friday event, which includes a live classical music performance and admission for the entire weekend. $6 per day Saturday and Sunday or $10 for both days, $1 students, free for children 12 and younger. 5-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. 535 Fourth Ave. N. 727-234-7759. floridaantiquarianbookfair.com.

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Saturday

Poetry in the Park BLC: Hosted by Cultured Books Literacy Foundation, the event happens at Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center in shelter 2. Adults and children will create and share poetry. Free. 9-11 a.m. 1000 28th St. S. 727-328-4822.

Mirror Lake Walking Tour With a Literary Twist: Preserve the ‘Burg and Keep St. Pete Lit present a tour that combines St. Petersburg history and architecture while local writers read their work. It starts at City Hall and will circle around the lake. $20. 10 a.m.-noon. 175 Fifth St. N. 727-824-7802. ptb.wildapricot.org.

Gulfport Historical Society Book Swap: Bring a book or a few to swap on the lawn of the Gulfport History Museum. Free. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. 5301 28th St. S, Gulfport. 727-201-8687.

Nature Journaling With St. Pete Audubon: The St. Petersburg Audubon Society leads a nature journaling workshop at Sawgrass Lake Park, teaching ways to observe nature. Journals, coloring supplies, pens and pencils will be provided. Meet at the info center. Free. 1-3 p.m. 7400 25th St. N. 727-798-4530.

Poetry Exploring Wildness: A SunLit Poetry Event: The event at Tombolo Books featuring poet laureate Helen Pruitt Wallace and poet Gloria Muñoz explores what makes poems wild. Featured poets will read poetry that coincides with the SunLit Festival’s theme, “Where the Wild Things Are.” An open mic session follows. Free. 6-7:30 p.m. 2153 First Ave. S. 716-401-6307. tombolobooks.com.

Children’s Poetry Night Hike: Children will read poetry related to “wilds of the night” at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. Ages 3 and older. $5 adults, $3.50 children. 7:30 p.m. 1101 Country Club Way S. 727-893-732.

Sunday

Tour de Kerouac: Join The Friends of Jack Kerouac for a bike tour featuring Kerouac’s favorite haunts, including the Flamingo Sports Bar, Haslam’s Books, the Manhattan Casino and Mirror Lake Community Library. Poetry readings will happen at certain stops. Meet at the St. Pete Bike Co-op. 10 a.m.-noon. Free, but signups are required at friendsofkerouac@gmail.com. 559 Mirror Lake Drive.

Wordier’s 1K Walk and Write (or Read): Wordier Than Thou’s hybrid 1K/writing workshop/silent read-in/St. Pete walking tour/pub crawl kicks off at The Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge at Albert Whitted Airport and travels to the St. Pete Pier. There will be stops at various points for 15 minutes of free writing or reading. Awards will be given. Free. 1-4 p.m. 540 First St. S. 516-906-2140. facebook.com.

Lucha Libro: Eight Tampa Bay writers face off to create original works from given prompts in five minutes. Winners will be declared after each round and move up until only one remains. Theatricality and costumes are encouraged. $5 suggested donation. 3-5 p.m. The Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S. 727-798-4530. thestudio@620.org.

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