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Book Festival Boosting Businesses

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli
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March 16, 2005

Hotels are booked and restaurants are already filling-up. But it's not just out-of-town guests. Locals are also out for a good read.

"A lot of our regulars, unbeknownst to us, will be associated with the book festival and bring in a large group during the week," said Vickie Gresge l'etoile restaurant owner.

Restaurants such as l'etoile are gearing up for one of the busiest weeks of the year.

"We've had quite a lot of people booking ahead this week so we have noticed a difference," Gresge said.

If you venture out for lunch this week, reservations are recommended.

"They probably can get in if they're a smaller group, but if it's a larger group we always recommend that they call ahead," Gresge encouraged.

"People at the book festival tend not to make them because they don't necessarily know what their schedule is going to be," said Sara Stovall, Assistant Manager at Blue Bird Cafe. "That makes it a little more interesting when we don't' know when they are coming."

Despite these planning challenges, restaurants still welcome new customers.

"A lot of the people that come to the book festival come every year. So we see a lot of the same people, they make this their regular lunch places or whatever while they're here," said Stovall.

Last year more than 23,000 people from 40 states attended the growing festival. This year organizers expect just as big of a turnout.

"You know it really impacts on the restaurants and bookstores," said Nancy Damon, Program Director of the Virginia Festival for the Book. "It really affects anybody that has anything to do with tourism. And of course people shop. Sometimes they're downtown or barracks road, or wherever [the programs] are. The programs are scattered all over."

The festival estimates 30-40 percent of attendees are not locals. In fact, Damon won the award for tourism last year saying: "It brings people at a time that's not the heaviest tourist time. It's not football season so it's a good time"


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