Book festival
is a weekend alternative

Excuse me while I say something sacrilegious: There are other things to do on a fine September weekend besides watch football.

OK, before you become violent, just remember - I like football as much as the next guy.

I've just learned that there's more to life than football, especially over Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. Because that's when the Decatur Book Festival comes to town - something that happens only once a year, as opposed to the 400,000 times a year football graces our giant plasma screens.

This year's festival, for those keeping score at home, is even bigger than last year's, featuring more than 200 authors (including four Pulitzer Prize-winners), dozens of book sellers and several live music acts. There's also a children's parade on Saturday morning, followed by a reading of "Where the Wild Things Are."

New this year is an adult parade on Sunday night, which organizers have christened The Promenade of the Book Crewes. Everyone's invited to dress up in funny costumes and act silly. Hey, if you're a big football fan, you already enjoy doing that.

The festival kicks off Friday evening (please note the gridiron metaphor) with a keynote address by singer/songwriter/novelist Richard S. "Kinky" Friedman, whose latest album is called "Last of the Jewish Cowboys." Until recently, I thought it was a tribute to former Dallas wide- receiving great Michael Irvin.

Atlanta's own Natasha Tretheway, the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winner for poetry, headlines Saturday's festivities. Or if poetry's not your thing, you can get gardening tips from green-thumb extraordinaire Walter Reeves, take your kids to hear Judy Schachner, author of the SkippyJon Jones series, or talk Braves baseball with sportswriter Jack Wilkinson, who has almost as many saves this year as the entire Atlanta bullpen.

One of the festival's highlights is an onstage interview with Charles Frazier on Saturday evening. Frazier is best known for his National Book Award-winning novel "Cold Mountain," which of course was made into an Academy Award-winning motion picture. Before a captivated audience, he'll answer such probing questions as "What made you want to be a writer?" and "Is Nicole Kidman really as hot in person?"

Sunday afternoon features readings by local favorites Ferrol Sams, Melissa Fay Greene and Patti Callahan Henry. The festival ends on a high note that evening with a live performance on the square by Grammy Award nominee Shawn Mullins, whose hit song "Lullaby" is not to be confused with what your mother used to sing to you.

Check out the full schedule of events at www.decaturbookfestival.com, program your TiVo, and take your family down to Decatur for a little cultural enrichment.

If you're worried about being sacrilegious, you can always watch the game Sunday morning instead of going to church.

E-mail Rob Jenkins at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.