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Festival of Books canceled due to coronavirus fears

More than 100 authors pull out of event
Updated: Mar. 9, 2020 at 12:36 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The annual Tucson Festival of Books has been canceled.

In a Facebook post, the festival’s board of directors said more than 100 authors pulled out of the festival citing coronavirus concerns.

“It is with great sadness that the Board of Directors of the Tucson Festival of Books has chosen to cancel the 2020 Tucson Festival of Books,” the group wrote. “We know the Festival of Books brings much joy to many in our community as well as visitors from around the country. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a situation this year where we are unable to provide a quality festival for several reasons:”

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Monday’s announcement came after news of two confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona, but before a late afternoon update that Pima County had its first presumptive positive case. There are three “presumptive positives" in Pinal County, which means a person tested positive for the virus but it has not been confirmed yet.

About 100,000 people attend the event on the University of Arizona campus each year. This year’s event was scheduled for March 14-15.

Clark Norton, a local travel author, considered a cancellation might be possible after hearing about other large events around the country that have been shut down. He said the news still surprised him.

“It’s only five days from now,” he said. “If I hadn’t heard by this morning I thought it was going to be a go.”

Norton reserved a booth at the festival and expected to spend his entire weekend signing autographs and making sales. He sold out halfway through the second day of the 2018 festival. This time around, he anticipated 50% of his new book sales would happen in just Saturday and Sunday.

The author admits he fits the demographic for individuals who are encouraged to avoid travel and large gatherings. He had high hopes for the weekend, despite any potential risk it might pose to his own health.

“I was concerned about that,” he said. “Not so concerned I would not have gone, but sure, it is something you have to think about.”

Norton said now he will have to really hustle to make up the lost sales.

Festival organizers are working on announcing dates for the 2021 event.

“We will continue to support literacy in Southern Arizona in the years to come and have donated $2 million to date,” the group said. “We thank the public, our supporters, and our volunteers for their understanding and cooperation during this unprecedented situation and for their commitment.”

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