Fourteen years ago, a group of visionaries dreamed up the idea of an event with the purpose of raising funds and awareness for recognizing and promoting Florida’s vast literary heritage.
Following the model of similar literary festivals around the state and around the country, the annual Florida Heritage Book Festival held its inaugural event in the fall of 2008.
Since 2012, the Festival has awarded over $82,000 back into the community. Proceeds were given to The St. Augustine Record’s Newspapers in Education (NIE) for programs in elementary and secondary schools, and to the Friends of St. Johns County Libraries and the Bookmobiles for library programming and materials.
Sponsorships, grants, in-kind contributions, special ticketed events, and merchandise sales funded the festival. Principal sponsors were St. Augustine Media, Flagler College, Herbie Wiles Insurance, Old Town Trolley Tours, All- American Air Charitable Foundation, St. Johns County Tourist Development Council, Culture Builds Florida, Culture Around Every Corner, and the Renaissance Marriott at World Golf Village.
Since that first event, the Florida Heritage Book Festival hosted a wide range of award-winning authors and writers, conducted annual Writers Conferences, acknowledged the achievements of the selected Literary Legends, and sponsored author engagements in St. Johns County Public Schools and Flagler College classes.
The annual Festival hosted a large Marketplace, with authors and literary-themed vendors sharing their materials with the public. All this took place on the campus of Flagler College, at no charge to the students or the public, offering a glimpse into the workings of a modern educational institution in an historic setting.
Over the past few years, the FHBF Board of Directors began to examine whether the organization was meeting its full potential. What is the best way we can use our talents and expertise to serve the literary needs of our community and represent our
state? With many other state and regional festivals available, low event attendance, a continued funding shortfall, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Festival events, the FHBF Board voted to dissolve the Florida Heritage Book Festival, Inc., effective May 1, 2021.
We recognize that we would not be here without the visionaries of 2007 who put Florida literature on the map for residents, educators, and tourists. Through their passionate work, they improved the awareness of and, even possibly, impacted the quality of Florida literature.
And, let’s not forget the many Festival volunteers, vendors, authors, and participants. Thanks for your passion for writing and literature and your boundless support of the Florida Heritage Book Festival. Our success rests on your support and efforts on our behalf through the years. We couldn’t have done it without each of you beside us.
So, let us raise a glass to the last fourteen years, and another to the legacy of these Florida authors and Legends.
– Debra Rhodes Gibson, President, The Florida Heritage Book Festival, Inc.