By Katie Lovett
---- — Each year, crowds of literature fans arrive in the city at the end of April for a weekend full of panel discussions and seminars devoted to books and writing.
This year’s Newburyport Literary Festival is set for April 26 and April 27, but as organizers gear up for eighth annual event, they fear it could be one of the final years for the popular program after a major sponsor has notified organizers that this will be final time it will fund the festival and overall donations have significantly decreased.
It costs close to $40,000 to run the literary festival, which drew more than 4,000 participants last year, said organizer Vicki Hendrickson. Since it began in 2005, it has been sponsored by the local banks, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Newburyport, Newbury, West Newbury, Amesbury and Merrimac Cultural Councils.
While none of the authors are paid for their appearance at the festival, the costs come from securing venues for the discussions and seminars, transportation and lodging for the authors, and required insurance, Hendrickson added.
The Mass. Cultural Council donates $2,500 each year, and local cultural councils give a collective donation of $1,500. Organizers host several small fundraisers throughout the year to help offset some of the costs, including the Friday night “Dinner with the Authors” during the festival weekend.
Started as a way to celebrate books and reading, the festival has hosted countless novelists, non-fiction writers, poets and children’s authors over the years. Last year’s appearance by “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” author Jeff Kinney drew hundreds of people to his talk at the Immaculate Conception School.
Hendrickson said the festival organizers -- who are all unpaid volunteers -- were notified by one of the local banks that since the foundation tries to help a variety of organizations in the community, they rotate the available funds to another cause once a program has established itself in the community.
Faced with the diminishing funding, the organizers are seeking to find a new sponsor and appealing to community members for donations, Hendrickson added. Donations have dipped by about $17,000 this year compared to past festivals, she said.
If they aren’t able to secure more donations, there’s no question the festival’s future will be in jeopardy, she added.
“All of us are volunteers who have serious career obligations in addition to the festival,” Hendrickson said. “To add a number of fundraisers to the already long list of tasks isn’t possible.”
To make a donation to the Literary Festival, visit their website at http://newburyportliteraryfestival.org, or mail it to P.O. Box 268, Newburyport, MA 01950. Checks should be made payable to Newburyport Literary Association, Inc.