Celebrating its fourth birthday this weekend, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival Presented by DeKalb Medical (DBF) is drawing praise from both authors and participants.

International best-selling thriller author Lee Child, appearing on Fox 5’s Good Day Atlanta Friday, September 4, said, “In its fourth year, Decatur is already one of the major book festivals in the U.S. You’ve got to go to the L.A. Times Festival and maybe Decatur. This is now a big deal. It’s all very exciting.”

DBF Executive Director Daren Wang agreed, calling the festival a “tremendous success” and citing the standing-room-only groups at the 900-seat First Baptist Church of Decatur and the 700-seat Decatur Presbyterian Church. The 400-seat Target Children’s Stage was also packed throughout the weekend with families and children lining up to hear popular children’s authors such as Judy Schachner, Jon Scieszka, and Elizabeth Dulemba.

Rob Jenkins, DBF board member and Director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College said that in only its fourth year, the festival has “come of age.”

Jenkins, who has been involved with the festival since early in its history, joined scores of participants in observing the overwhelming success of the event that brought tens of thousands of book lovers to hear more than 300 authors at venues around the Decatur Square.

Jenkins commented that the event ran so smoothly because of the maturity and experience of the organizers and 500 volunteers who worked on the event.

While total crowd figures are not available, organizers estimate a 15 percent increase over last year’s event.

Starting with a packed 800-seat Presser Hall at Agnes Scott College Friday, September 4, for the keynote address on the future of print by Sir Harold Evans, and ending with a Sunday evening picnic by the Southern Foodways Alliance and Concert on the Square by bluegrass group Sweet AlizAbeth, the festival provided something for everyone.

With 12 additional venues, ranging in size from 75 seats at the Decatur Conference Center Stage to 300 seats at the Old Courthouse, back-to-back events all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon were at or beyond capacity.

On Saturday night, those lucky fans who bought tickets early to the only festival-sponsored paid event, a sold-out concert at Agnes Scott honoring the 100th anniversary of Eudora Welty’s birth, were thrilled to hear Kate Campbell, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Caroline Herring, and Claire Holley perform in honor of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning writer from Jackson, Mississippi.

Comments filled Twitter and Facebook over the weekend from excited book lovers and festival attendees.

From Karlene Barger of Sandy Springs, “I think this is the best book festival yet. I especially enjoyed being one of the 1,100 or so people who attended the ‘Vampire’ session with Charlaine Harris, and Michael Malone was also wonderful! A very well organized (and fun) event!”

Decatur’s Steve Vogel wrote: “Just got back from the Decatur Book Festival — what a great event! Props to all who made it happen and those who came and enjoyed.”

Melanie Wright of Lawrenceville posted on Sunday, “The Decatur Book Festival yesterday was wonderful! Excited for today’s line up! No better way for me to spend Labor Day Weekend!”

Rachel Moore Hawkins of Auburn, Alabama, wrote:  “back from Decatur! Had a BLAST! Got to spend time with The Mama, see old friends, make new friends, hang with some truly kick-a** writers, and meet awesome bloggers. Oh, and got Richelle Mead to sign a book. All in all, a fabulous weekend!”

Interviews available upon request.

“We had record sized crowds for the Vampires session and Charlaine Harris signed everything she could in the allotted time. We also had a lot of compliments from booklovers, saying thanks for putting on this event.  The authors were great, the crowds patient and the weather beautiful.  We will be contacting the publicity departments of Random House, Penguin, Simon and Schuster with photos of how well their authors drew crowds in hopes that they will continue sending us such well-known writers.”

–Doug Robinson, owner, Eagle Eye Book Shop.

We have been proud and excited to organize the programing for — as well as do book sales at — the kids’ stage for the last four years (and the teen stage for the last two), and the 2009 festival was no exception.

The illustrators and authors sent to us increase in their prestige every year, and it’s because the publishers know what an awesome festival this is. But they aren’t the only folks responding with tons of enthusiasm — we had fantastic crowds and sales in the store and at both stages this year, and we’re particularly proud of how packed The Escape teen stage was. We are raring to go for 2010!

–Terra McVoy, Co-Director, Youth Programming, AJC-Decatur Book Festival, & Bookseller Extraordinaire at Little Shop of Stories