First lady's book festival sees changes

WASHINGTON: For the second year in a row, first lady Laura Bush is holding her National Book Festival, a two-day celebration of American literature.

WASHINGTON: For the second year in a row, first lady Laura Bush is holding her National Book Festival, a two-day celebration of American literature.

But Washington is a very different place than it was a year ago, which will be felt in the festival's look and planning.

Intended as an opportunity for people to mix with elected officials and famous authors, the festival by its very nature seems a relic of a more open time in Washington. The first festival took place September 9, 2001, two days before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Security was light among the open tents on the Capitol Building's vast East lawn and the stage on the steps of the Library of Congress.

Fleishman-Hillard, the festival's organizer, is contending with tougher logistics this year. The Capitol's East lawn is now a mass of concrete barriers and construction equipment, inhospitable to gatherings. And the idea of allowing the general public to converge on its grounds unchecked is anathema to those charged with its protection.

This year, the festival will be held on the Capitol's lower lawn, a healthy distance from the event's intended focus, the Library of Congress. In addition, security concerns could complicate planning in its latest stages.

"At this point, there is nothing on the table that says we have to secure the area and require that people come through (metal detectors)," said Tom Gentile, who is leading the account for Fleishman. "But as we get closer that could change, because in the end we will defer to the first lady's security council, the FBI, and the Secret Service."

The festival will take place on October 11 and 12.

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