TOP: The first Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in 1982 was presented in Plant Hall at the University of Tampa. The fair later moved to the Hilton Hotel in downtown St. Petersburg, then to the USF Activity Center and finally to The Coliseum, originally a 1920s dance hall.

ABOVE: Coverage of the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair by local and national media has brought the fair to the attention of book lovers throughout the nation.
Museum Gallery 1
Museum Gallery 3

Like a family reunion
The Florida Antiquarian Book Fair celebrated its 30th anniversary in March 2011. Vivian Moore was one of a small cadre of booksellers who put together the first book fair at the University of Tampa. She shares some of her recollections.

By Vivian Moore

The first show was somewhat stressful and tiring. And yet, it was very exciting and lots of fun! We did not have a show manager for the first span of years as we were trying to minimize our expenses so that the show would be economically viable.

Vivian Moore
Vivian Moore operated Hyde Park Book Shop
Therefore, Mike Slicker (owner of Lighthouse Books, ABAA), who I believe was the creator of the FABA and the book fair, took the bull by the horns and became our show manager, a position he held for many years.

The responsibility of putting together the show in those days fell on just a few dealers: Mike, myself and my ex, Jim Shelton. That first year we did everything ourselves including the rental and assembling of the tables, chairs, tablecloths and the laying out of the booths.

I can remember we ordered and picked up 20 to 30 unassembled bookcases (2 feet by 6 feet) as one was included in the price of each booth.  We started to put them together early in the morning at one of the ballrooms at the University of Tampa, where the show was held those early years. It was going smoothly until we started finding that some of the bookcases had flaws. They would not fit together properly. Oh no, small panic. So, we now had to employ a saw and other tools to make these adjustments to get the bookcases to fit together.

During this time, our small group of “managers” acted as porters, assisting the dealers in moving their inventory into their booths. We also passed out materials such as bags & tag sealers for them, etc. Helping the dealers haul their books to their booths, I was always impressed with how many boxes dealers could pack in a vehicle. If any of the dealers needed anything extra for their booth or had any problems, we would assist them as well. Now, remember, our core group members were also exhibitors at the fair, which meant that we were also trying to get our own booths setup before the show began.

 Of course, everything always takes you longer than you planned.  Opening time was quickly approaching and there were still things to do. We barely got the last bookcase built for the exhibitors before the doors opened.  As the show commenced, our booth still wasn't totally unpacked or arranged. And, we had not yet changed out of our work clothes. I'm sure there were a few small things that were overlooked by the dealers but they really liked the show and our hospitality, and it was a success!

I think we had about 24 to 30 dealers with most of them from Florida and a few from out of state. After the show, we had to lug those built bookcases to our shop for either storage, use, and/or sell. I believe we used those type of bookcases for a few years, then we went into the fold-up kind that were smaller and lighter in weight with no assembly. Later on, we discontinued those and now offer rental display showcases direct through a company. 

After about 15-plus years without a show manager, it’s nice to have one now, and I’m sure Mike will agree, though I know he’s always worked closely with the manager especially more so early on. And, of course, now all we have to do is set up our booth, which is great since each year we are getting older.

The book fair has grown over the years from the original 25 to 30 to around 115-plus dealers from all over the country. We have always had a long list of dealers waiting to get a booth for the show as our exhibitors are a hardcore group as many return year after year.

I believe that what draws the dealers to the show is the Florida sunshine, the old Coliseum in St. Petersburg, which makes a perfect setting and our warm southern hospitality. The shows are like a family reunion of dealers and customers who have become old and lifelong friends.

I’m glad to have taken part in all 30 years of this show. It has been a worthwhile part of my life and I have many memories of great times. I hope it will continue into the future as far as we can see.