Pin It

It Takes a Village 

“I’ve always wanted to have a book festival in town,” says Scott Meyer of Millbrook’s Merritt Books, “For years I’ve wanted one.” Meyer’s dream is about to come true. On May 16 and 17, the WAMC commentator and former Millbrook Business Association president will oversee the first edition of the Millbrook Book Festival.

Nestled just east of historic Hyde Park, Millbrook is a village of 1,400 with a photogenic main street, an outsized helping of community spirit—and, it would seem, a ferocious commitment to literacy. During the festival, hardware stores and craft shops will sport decorations along bookish lines, inviting strollers to browse. Millbrook resident Valerie Martin, whose novels include Mary Reilly, Trespass, and Property, proclaims her hometown “very walkable,” adding that “the Millbrook library is beautiful, with a great children’s room, one of the best I’ve seen anywhere.”

Martin is a veteran of numerous book festivals, including the Tennessee Williams and Faulkner festivals in New Orleans, Washington’s Fall for the Books, and others in Minneapolis, Key West, and South Carolina. “Valerie told us how to do it,” says Meyer. She wasn’t alone: Over 100 volunteers were involved in the year-long planning process, and local businesses signed on enthusiastically.

Millbrook is home to the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, a world leader in the ecological research field and the host of the festival’s opening on Friday, May 16. Senior research specialist Heather Malcom is “exceedingly excited” by the symbiosis. “The whole scientific community goes to the bookstore–everybody knows Scott,” she explains. “This was a perfect match—we’re celebrating our 25th anniversary, and here’s someone who wanted to bring the public to us.” From 4 to 6pm, the institute will offer open lab tours and activities for all ages, including fog collecting, determining the age of Hudson River clams by counting shell ridges like tree rings, checking water Ph content, and viewing Lyme-bearing ticks through a microscope (“They’ll be dead ticks,” Malcom reassures with a laugh). A reception from 6 to 7pm will feature refreshments and a performance by eco-folksinger Bindlestick Bill. At 7pm, New York Times science writer Andrew Revkin will headline a panel discussion on the population explosion and climate change.

May 17’s lineup is remarkably diverse, starting with a pancake breakfast at Grace Church. Merritt will sponsor booksignings all day, with literary panels on spirituality, history, children’s books, poetry, mystery, literary fiction, and romance at various venues. Participating authors include Valerie Martin, National Geographic photographer Justin Guariglia, Jennifer Donnelly (The Winter Rose), Susan Richards (Chosen Forever), Bruce Chilton (Abraham’s Curse), Fergus Bordewich (Washington), Edgar Award nominee Julia Spencer-Fleming, and dozens more. Admission is free.

Interspersed throughout are child-friendly happenings: a parade (“dress as your favorite book character”), storytelling, and readings by young writers. A soup-and-salad dinner at St. Joseph’s School spotlights recipes by cookbook author Brother Victor. And many Millbrook restaurants will offer special book-themed lunches, including Les Baux (A Year in Provence); Piccolo (Under the Tuscan Sun); Slammin’ Salmon (Moby Dick); and Babette’s (what else but Babette’s Feast?)

“It’s a very unique village,” Meyer says, sharing his favorite compliment from a bookstore patron. When asked if she needed help, she shook her head, saying, “I came in just to feel better.” Meyer beams. “We’re bibliotherapists here.”

The Millbrook Book Festival will be held at various locations in Millbrook on May 16 and 17. For a full schedule and list of participating authors, visit

click to enlarge Untitled photograph from Justin Guaraglia’s Planet Shanghai (Chronicle Books, 2008).
  • Untitled photograph from Justin Guaraglia’s Planet Shanghai (Chronicle Books, 2008).
click to enlarge Untitled photograph from Justin Guaraglia’s Planet Shanghai (Chronicle Books, 2008).
  • Untitled photograph from Justin Guaraglia’s Planet Shanghai (Chronicle Books, 2008).



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Homeschool at The Aldrich: Wish, Wonder, Write @ The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

Homeschool at The Aldrich: Wish, Wonder, Write

Fri., March 24, 10-11:30 a.m. — Be inspired by Beth Campbell’s combination of writing and drawing, exploring what...
Mortality Mansions @ Hudson Area Library

Mortality Mansions

Fri., March 24, 6-7:30 p.m. — “Mortality Mansions” is a song cycle by Grammy Award-winning composer Herschel Garfein...

View all of today's events

Latest in Visual Art

  • On The Cover: Gabriel Garcia Roman
  • On The Cover: Gabriel Garcia Roman

    "Visceral Notions" will feature work by Gabriel Garcia Roman through March 26 at the Center for Photography at Woodstock.
    • Mar 1, 2017
  • Andres Serrano Goes Back to School
  • Andres Serrano Goes Back to School

    The Andres Serrano retrospective at The School, the spectacular exhibition space established by Chelsea gallery owner Jack Shainman in Kinderhook, is a rare event.
    • Mar 1, 2017
  • Parting Shot: Matthew Pleva
  • Parting Shot: Matthew Pleva

    Kingston-based multimedia artist Matthew Pleva seeks inspiration from everything around him.
    • Mar 1, 2017
  • More »

Related to Visual Art

More by Nina Shengold

Hudson Valley Tweets