The Gold Rush Book Fair, 2010
By Karen Wright
A couple of years ago, at the pinnacle of the financial downslide, we had a booth at the Gold Rush Book Fair in Grass Valley, California. It is a beautiful area east of Sacramento, back up in the pines. It was a very hot, hot weekend and we were glad for the air conditioned building. We didn't do too well financially, but we sure enjoyed the fair. Besides the fact that it is in close proximity to our store near Reno, it attracts quite a few west coast dealers. Many of us know each other from other book fairs, so the camaraderie is fun, though sometimes the financial rewards could be better. However, this year, it was quite good. The weather was gorgeous, not too hot, not too cold; just right! Financially it was pretty good, at least for me, and most of the dealers I talked to said it was anywhere from "okay" to "pretty good."
John Hardy from Hardy Books was the "fairmaster" for a number of years, but he has passed the scepter to Tom Burnham and the Nevada County Friends of the Library. They did a great job and it was well organized. I believe the turnout of dealers was not quite as prolific as other years, but it seemed to me that we had more attendees than the last year.
They do some really nice, unique things at this fair. Nevada City and Grass Valley have a wealth of wonderful bookstores - you could almost call them a collective "booktown." One of my favorite events is the night before the fair after everyone has set up their booths, they have a sort of wine and beer "social" at the library or at a local bookstore and then they have a dealers' dinner afterwards. The Friends had an open store for the dealers for a couple of hours. It is the only West Coast fair that I know about (and we've been to a bunch of them) that does these things. Most everyone attends, often with a partner or friend, and there is a really tasty spaghetti feed with nice, abundant Nevada City area wine. And, it's on them!
This year Pacific Book Auction (PBA) from San Francisco sent Greg Jung and Bruce MacMakin up to do appraisals for people for the huge sum of $1 each. These guys are great. I had a couple of really old books that I had priced but was not sure I was in the right neighborhood, but Greg looked them over and said they were okay. He was quite excited when an attendee brought in a first edition of the Book of Mormon, but not as excited as were the people that brought it in - shades of Antiques Roadshow!
The other thing they do at the Gold Rush Fair is to honor one bookseller each year who is outstanding in his or her field (though I'm not sure any women have had that honor, yet). That bookseller gets Big Booth #1, located just as the patrons come through the door, a nice little plaque, and he or she can stand up at the dinner and wax poetic about his or her history and experiences as a bookseller for as long as the audience can stay awake.
This year, William Maxwell of Maxwell's Bookmark in Stockton, California, was the honored guest. Like so many of us, his love of books and reading started as a child, encouraged by parents who were also readers. Where are those people these days? Playing video games and text messaging, I guess.