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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Festival of Books erects 500 tents, 14 stages over three weeks on Tucson Mall

Carmen Valencia

An overhead view of the setup for the Tucson Festival of Books on the UA Mall on March 7.

Before the Tucson Festival of Books becomes the Festival of Books, the grounds must undergo intense transformation: around 500 tents and 14 stages are put up in just three weeks.

The process begins with a map created by Facilities Management Designer Rogelio Guzman that details where the tents should be set up. From there, white tents begin popping up on the mall as the set-up services hired by the grounds—A la Carte Rentals and AZ Party Rental—follow the map.

At every step of the way, fire codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act must be complied with to safely accommodate the 135,000 people who attend the festival.

RELATED: Your guide to the 2017 Tucson Festival of Books

“We work with Risk Management [and] the designated fire marshal for the university to make sure that all fire codes are followed, that we have the proper distance between tents,” said Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management Christopher Kopach. “We make sure we have the proper access for ADA, [and] fire extinguishers will be at every stage area.”

Before set-up companies even begin to pitch the tents, they are refreshed on the safety codes from the fire department, according to set-up employee Pancho Guzman. However, the actual set up process is long and tedious. 

“The process is never-ending; it starts a 5 o’clock in the morning loading up, coming out here by 7 [and we] start setting up,” Guzman said. The set-up crews sometimes stay on campus working until 10 or 11 p.m.

RELATED: 150 sponsors donate half a million dollars for Tucson Festival of Books

Other departments that work to make the event run smoothly include the grounds department, which prepares the Mall, and maintenance staff, who work on systems such as the heating and ventilation and elevators. The Festival of Books Committee also works with UAPD, Parking and Transportation Services, the Dean of Students Office and Classroom Services. “It’s a huge team effort to make sure this goes [smoothly] as one of the largest book festivals in the country,” Kopach said. “[There is] a lot of collaboration among many different departments in the university working for a very successful event.”

However, while setting up tents only takes a few weeks, planning for the festival continues year-round, with monthly steering committee meetings. “Every month after [a wrap up in April], we’re preparing for the next book fair, and next year will be the 10th year, so it’s a huge milestone,” Kopach said. 

Follow Rocky Baier on Twitter.

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