Let this recap of the fabulous book fair last summer serve as a reminder for the Westport Friends 56th Annual Used Book Fair Saturday, July 8, 2017! This will be the first one I'll miss in over ten years!
Westport Friends (Quaker) 55th Annual Used Book Fair
938 Main Road
July 9, 2016
Spirits and expectations were sky high. Thousands of books were so close you could smell their musty odor after months of being packed away in the book shed next to the Macomber Community House. Collectors and beach readers, they're here in force.
"Have you ever read Nelson DeMille?" asks one man to another as they wait behind the colorful pennants surrounding the tents, itching to move in the moment the opening whistle blows at precisely 11 AM. "I've read nearly all of his books and am looking for more."
Book Fair Clerk Greg Marsello prepares for the countdown. He's unflappable, organized, and the main cog in the book sorting process. Just about every book on the tables has had to pass through his hands - thousands that do not pass muster are recycled or passed along to other book sellers. Want to volunteer to help during the year-long process?
Bargains galore await eager book lovers. Prices? Ridiculously affordable...some at 6 for $1.00, gorgeous coffee table books at the high end for $5.00 and the vast majority at one tenth their original cost. The book fair has come a long way since its inception 55 years ago. The parsonage needed a new roof, the parson suggested organizing a book fair to pay for it. It was such a success, the Friends decided to repeat it...the rest, as they say, is history.
For a moment, the scene resembled a "Door Buster" sale at WalMart. A record-sized crowd surged into the Macomber Community House for a record collection bonanza! 2,000 records, LPs and 45s were recently donated by the estate of a local record collector - and another 1000 from other donors. Records pressed on vinyl have been making a comeback - many collectors knew exactly what they wanted and still have the equipment to play the records on.
By the end of the first two hours, thousands of paperbacks, hard covers, albums, records and DVDs had found new homes, at least till next summer. This is easy to imagine since a staggering 20,000 books were stacked on tables and cartons underneath them, ready to surface as soon as the first books had been carted away. For the first year, credit cards are accepted!
"The Book Fair raises about 32% of our yearly operating costs," Greg Marsello says. "The money is allocated for property upkeep expenses, religious education, and a Helping Fund, which supports In-Need members of the community."
The Children's' section of the tent behind the refreshment tables opened for kids exclusively at 10:45 AM. When every kid seems to have an iPhone or iPad, it's refreshing to see them poring over titles and filling their arms with books in all categories.
11:01 A.M. the tents are jammed...
The jovial intensity of shoppers is unmatched. If you could bottle it, you'd achieve Peace on Earth. Here's an entire community focused on acquiring books to read for pleasure and the serendipitous prospect of finding books that open their horizons or complete their collections. There are serious book collectors here who search for and usually find books for their inventory.
Says one collector: "My main interest is in 20th century literature and history. I have a Masters degree in literature so I know the canon. After 12 years I have a feel for what will sell and do business online."
Joe Gracia on the prowl for Clive Custler books. Joe has list supplied by his wife, a fan of Custler's. Joe says the author actually has a staff that helps him churn out books. His wife buys 300 to 400 books a year at yard sales and fairs. They sell books at the American Legion. Indeed, there's something for everyone here.
A new wrinkle this year: thousands of vinyl albums from donated from a collector's estate.
Bookfair coordinator Kevin Lee: "The announcement about a collectors trove of LPs and 45s drew many collectors. One fellow appeared at the community house at 8:45 AM to ask when the doors opened. He returned at 9:20 AM to be the first in the door that opened at 11 AM. The collectors handled albums very carefully, examining for scratches, and holding them at the edges."
A shopper proudly displays a Brenda Lee album, tells me that her 4'9" height earned her the nickname "Little Miss Dynamite." Lee stormed the charts with her rockabilly and country songs, had 47 US chart hits during the 1960s.
"I worked hard today," says a collector. He was looking for originals, not reissues, sells on Amazon, looks for albums from the Norman Luboff choir, Tom Petty, Brenda Lee and albums on vinyl which he says are coming back in popularity, some for nostalgia and others because artists are beginning to record on vinyl again after years of forsaking for CDs. He has a 98% approval rating on Amazon.
Some of the best stories aren't in books but are the ones I hear from the shoppers themselves...
Tom Maguire: "I've come here because I read about the albums for sale by reading your blog. My mom was born in 1910, she used to sing to me all the time. She always had a happy smile and was fun to be around. People tell me I smile a lot because of her. She used to sing some of the songs in this big bag of records I just bought. They bring back happy memories of her. I'm not a kid anymore so I really enjoy these memories from the LPs."
"Look at this album of quadrille songs. When she was younger my mom loved that dance. When she was 89 years old and got around with two canes she went to listen to a quadrille dance. A fellow took her hand and she was sitting down and danced quadrille moves with her. Can you imagine that?"
"And look at this album by the Irish Rovers. During the war a bunch of us went into a Vietnamese bar and a song on this album called 'The Black Velvet Band' was on a jukebox and we must of sung that song 20 times one right after another!"
A collector from Dartmouth, MA."I love this book fair. I've been coming here for the past five years after my daughter told me about it. When I bring books home every year there is no late fee, it's almost like I'm renting them for a year. If I don't keep them, I re-donate them or give them to friends."
"This is my favorite book fair in this region," says Luke Wallin, says retired University of Massachusetts Dartmouth professor. "Literature used to be my favorite category now it's mostly about painting which I've taken up after retirement. My daughter's favorite is the book fair in Little Compton, Rhode Island. She checks for book fairs online, we often go together. The Little Compton Rhode Island library has its used book sale on August 6 this year."
Longtime (really!) readers from Dartmouth,MA, examining their haul: Woman says, ”I remember coming to the very first book fair with my mother who was a ferocious reader. We bring books back or give them to friends. I'm 80 years old now so I've been coming here for 55 years! It appears that there is something about the Westport weather that's good for you!"
Man says, “We read aloud to each other on Horseneck Beach."
"On a cross-country trip a long time ago my girlfriend and I read the book 'The Wind in the Willows' to each other, says I. The man smiles. "My second wife wouldn't marry me until I read that book to her out loud. I guess I passed because we did get married."
This family's third time around.
The steps of the Friends Meeting House were a perfect place to read, eat lunch, and compare notes. For this day only, the Meeting House was packed with paperbacks priced at 25 cents and 6 for $1.00 and opened for business at 10 AM. At dusk, the remaining books were set up under the tents. The weekly Sunday service begins at 10 AM. The only books in sight will be hymnals.
Photo R: "We saw a flyer advertising this book fair at the campsite were staying at on Horseneck Road," says the dad of the two girls intent on their books.
The flow of the first days predictable," says Kevin Lee, event coordinator and photographer, who can be counted on to add humor to the day's proceedings. "There is quite a rush for the first two hours then a lull till late in the afternoon when the crowd picks up again. Most of the crowd today are casual shoppers with a variety of tastes and interests. We do have collectors to our very specific in their shopping."
Food tent: Says one volunteer: "Today being cool, we sold lots of hot coffee and hot dogs first. We usually make one earn of coffee for the day, today we were on fourth pot by 2 PM. Our fabulous tabouli was a hit as it is annually."
The outreach coordinator, who happened to be working at the food tent, said that they used social media and other methods of outreach this year and attracted people from as far away as Cape Cod. She also noted a more diverse crowd, hungry too since they cleaned out the entire table of home made baked goods - mouth watering cookies, brownies, cupcakes, pies, scones, pumpkin bread.
Here's a tip: Ask for Deana’s apple pie: wow not sure of kind of apples probably macintosh, plus australian ginger which she bought in chunks and ground up into small bits, cinnamon, cranberry juice, sugar, and tapioca. The pies is so good an admirer paid her to drive to her house to show her how to make the pies herself!
The book fair ended on Sunday, July 17, 2016.
Photos by Paul A. Tamburello, Jr.