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Get Your Lit Together: A Primer on This Year's Festival of Books

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Tomorrow, the annual LA Times Festival of Books—a weekend-long celebration of literature and a fifteen-year old Los Angeles tradition—officially begins. In the past, the LATFOB has attracted roughly 140,000 Angelenos each year to its various panels, discussions, vendors, and book-minded activities; so it’s probably best to prepare yourself beforehand. And with new features like the free Target bus, Korean Taekwondo performances, and the LATFOB phone app, there’s a lot more you’ll want to check out at this year’s festival. Here’s the rundown on how to get there and what to expect:


Target Bullseye Bus: This year, LATFOB boasts the Target Bullseye Bus, a series of ten buses that will rotate triangularly between Union Station, LA Convention Center, and USC. Also convenient if you live by a Metro Route, so you can hop on to Union Station or LA Convention Center and then take the Bulls Eye Bus to USC. Bus Fare: Free.

Downtown Dash: To accommodate the LATFOB, Dash has increased its hours of operation and frequency. Trains will run every 10 minutes at all F-Line stops. Fare: $0.35

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Parking: Parking is available on-site at USC. Cost: $10

(Complete transportation information can be found here).

2011 Highlights:

Programming: There are two new stages at LATFOB this year, including the USC stage, which is set to feature the school’s marching band and student slam poetry, and an indoor panel room which will showcase USC faculty and alumnus. The Hoy Stage will feature Spanish-speaking programming including a spelling bee for kids. And the festival’s new Discover The World section will be comprised of different cultural booths from Ireland to Israel, covering a variety of subjects from poetry to Korean Taekwando.

Food Options: The festival’s new digs at USC also means more food options than ever before. In addition to the LATFOB food court stands, USC has its own sit down restaurants and campus food court available. And beverage-only kiosks will be placed throughout the festival, ensuring no one should wait too long for a bottle of water or a frozen lemonade.

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Vendors: The festival will house over 300 various vendors this year. At USC, this means a lot of vendors in a smaller space, but that also means a lot more cohesiveness. Gone are the days when vendors were stationed in obscure parts of the UCLA campus. This year, LATFOB is hoping the booths and stages will be more centralized and much easier to maneuver.

Festival of Books App: That’s right, if you have an iPhone, iPod Touch or Android device, you can download the LA Times Festival of Books app. It’ll help you make and manage your own schedule and provide detailed maps of the grounds. The best part is; if you download it now, you can use it at the festival without cell service or WiFi access (festivals aren’t conducive to the best cell phone service). So you can navigate what you need without overhauling your refresh button.

Tickets: As you might already know, many of the LATFOB panels and discussions are sold out, but don’t be discouraged. If you get there early enough on Saturday or Sunday, you might be able to score some of the limited tickets that have been reserved for on-site purchase ($1). It’s on a first-come-first-serve basis, so once they sell out, that’s it. Well, not entirely. You’ll still be able to hit up the stand-by lines, where you’ll be seated in any seats that are still open 10 minutes to show time. You might want to head to the stand by lines early if you’re hoping to see, say, Patti Smith and Dave Eggers—popular discussions and panels will require a bit more wait time.

Of course, you can always check out the LATFOB website for the complete rundown of events before the festival gates open at 10am tomorrow. But know that this year’s LATFOB will be more than equipped to handle the estimated 70-75,000 people traversing USC each day this weekend. When asked what the best part of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is, event coordinator Maret Orliss quipped, “You get over 140,000 people over the course of two days in Southern California, who all come together for the love of books.” Enough said.

Los Angeles Times Festival of Books @ USC
Saturday April 30, 2011 from 10am - 6pm
Sunday, May 1, 2011 from 10am - 5pm
General admission is free.