Book festival covered with coyote prints

Mascot identity key part of celebration as event selects 10th southwestern criter in the form of a coyote

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The Tucson Festival of Books has a unique Southwestern identity that gives it charm and personality, in part from the annually changing mascot. Each chosen animal is connected to Arizona and calls the desert home. 

Debuting in 2009 with approximately 50,000 attendees, the TFOB attendance base has grown to 135,000 people in 2017. 

The festival has been dedicated to promoting literacy in the community since its inconception in 2009. The proceeds from the last 10 years of the festival have provided over $1,650,000 to community organizations that support literacy and reading, such as the Reading Seed and Literacy Connects, according to its website. 

Past mascots include the hummingbird, the bobcat and the jack rabbit. The 2018 mascot is the coyote. 

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According to Brenda Viner, co-founder of the festival, the mascot is chosen each year by the Arizona Daily Star. 

“We love that the mascot changes every year and that it is composed of actual letters. It also represents Tucson so well because it is an animal that makes its home in Tucson,” Viner said. 

Graphic designer Chiara Bautista has done all the posters for the last decade, from the first Gila monster to this year’s coyote. Her images of the chosen critters are comprised of letters, resonating with the theme of the book festival. 

Debbie Kornmiller, a senior editor at the Arizona Daily Star, knows how the mascot has a powerful impact on the festival. 

The third mascot, a tarantula, even kept some people from attending. However, usually the mascot is a way to bring the festival to life.  

“The festival is where words and imagination come to life. That was the whole point of the graphic — to take the words and letters and imagine them as something real. It’s fun and whimsical,” Kornmiller said.

One of the mascot’s major influences on the festival is the merchandising. Every year, t-shirts and posters are sold depicting the image of the mascot and in many ways, the mascot becomes a face for the festival. 

The mascot does not have a complicated selection process, but it is intentionally chosen to be representative of the location where the festival occurs. 

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Darrell Durham, director of marketing for the Arizona Daily Star, said the changing mascot goes back to the roots of the festival. 

“The thinking was that whenever possible, we wanted to keep and emphasize that Southwest identity. We aren’t the {Los Angeles Times Festival of Books}, we’re not the Miami Book Fair — we’re the Tucson Festival of Books,” Durham said. “These creatures hammered that home to give us our unique identity.”

Bautista’s popular and lively illustrations are significant to the festival’s general Southwestern identity and individual literary image. Ten-year anniversary posters with all 10 mascots will be available at the festival this year.

“The setting for The Festival of Books is special, it’s not a big city, it has its own flavor, its own characters and these creatures were designed to bring that out,” Durham said.  


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