Save The Date (May 18) for the First-Ever Sleepy Hollow LitFest

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by Linda Viertel – 

More than 100 authors, events and vendors in eight venues will join together for a one-day, family-friendly festival in Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. LitFest is a multi-venue book celebration in both villages spanning locations from the Tarrytown Music Hall to the Hudson Valley Writers Center at Sleepy Hollow’s Philipse Manor station. Engaging and fun-filled activities will greet visitors on a walkable route running along Broadway, basically the path Ichabod Crane would have taken when he fled the Headless Horseman in Washington Irving’s famed legend.

The brainchild of Tarrytown author and storyteller, David Neilsen, LitFest grew out of his own experiences attending book festivals that all seemed to “lack a connection to why we were there,” he noted. “Of any place in America that has a historical connection to an author, it would be the home of Washington Irving.” With encouragement from his wife to “think big,” he reached out to Krista Madsen, Program Director at The Hudson Valley Writers Center (HVNC), and Jim Logan, Superintendent of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and the project took on a life of its own.

Other non-profits and organizations readily wanted to be involved: Warner Library, The Music Hall, the Old Dutch Church and Philipsburg Manor.  The two-village celebration grew quickly. Early planning discussions occurred before Neilsen realized it was the 200th anniversary of The Legend, but the bicentennial then gave him the festival’s concept: following the route Ichabod took when chased by the Horseman. “We know where the trail is approximately, thanks to Irving,” he said.

Various locations will stand in for the originals: The Music Hall will represent the Van Tassel farmstead (originally located in the approximate area of the Landmark Condominiums). The famed tulip tree will be symbolized on Warner Library’s front lawn, and, of course, Ichabod crossed the Pocantico River which will be Andre Brook in Patriot’s Park. (Ichabod was chased over a bridge since recreated from the original, well behind The Old Dutch Church and noted by a historical marker.) Three locations aren’t on the exact route but will be hosting events: Washington Irving’s gravesite at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, The Hudson Valley Writers Center (which will represent the schoolhouse where Ichabod was a teacher) and the Jazz Forum – which will acknowledge Ichabod’s second profession as a singing master. At each stop a laminated board will display relevant text from The Legend, and kids will be able to get stamps from the backside that indicate they have traveled the entire route. They can then return to the library for their reward.

Thanks to Laura Scott Schaefer, owner of Chappaqua’s Scattered Books, who reached out to her bestselling authors, and, in combination with the planners’ outreach for submissions, the writer participant list grew exponentially. The main hub of LitFest will be in front of Warner Library where two tents will be erected on the front lawn: one for adult books and one for young adult and children’s books. Authors will be on hand to sign their books when they aren’t at various venues throughout the day.

Programmed readings by authors and presenters will occur throughout the villages’ sites during the day – six or seven will be presented all day on the hour; the Old Dutch Church will have guided tours as well. An event tent will be set up in Patriot’s Park where kids and adults will be able to hear panel discussions throughout the day. At the Hudson Valley Writers Center about 50 poets will be presenting readings continually.  Pleasantville’s Village Bookstore is supplementing book offerings by providing poetry collections at the HVWC.

LitFest is a massive effort made manageable by the combined efforts of many volunteers working together. Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow officials have provided helpful funding and use of the senior vans for shuttles. Historic Hudson Valley is collaborating during the Pinkster Celebration (see sidebar), Director Peter Royston will be working with actors, and each venue is taking care of its own programming, with grants and sponsors providing financial assistance. Kathy Chulla and Stephanie Fuller are in charge of the Vendor’s Village in Patriot’s Park.

In this case “it takes two villages.” Thanks to David Neilsen, his conscientious team of collegial collaborators and volunteers, and all the authors who will be visiting our rivertowns, May 18th, LitFest Day, will be a majestic day for Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, a first-ever literary event that, hopefully, will become a tradition in years to come.

For more information, vendor sign-ups, sponsorships, legends and lore, please visit: https://sleepyhollowlitfest.org.

Click here to download schedule/time chart… (PDF – opens in new window)

LitFest Venues

(Many are walkable but shuttles will be available throughout the day.)

CENTRAL HUB at the Sleepy Hollow-Tarrytown border:

  • Warner Library featuring authors’ books and signings under front lawn tents with bilingual multi-arts programming inside for all ages.
  • Patriot’s Park with Author Tent and Vendor Village.


  • Philipsburg Manor Restoration featuring storytelling, music, crafts and more at the annual Pinkster African-American Celebration; with featured author Michael Twitty, James Beard Book Award-winning food writer of The Cooking Gene presenting in the Visitors Center.
  • The Old Dutch Church featuring mystery/thriller authors inside, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery at Washington Irving‘s grave with costumed interpreter.
  • Hudson Valley Writers Center featuring a robust lineup of Literary Authors and Poets; ending in an after-hours keynote from American-Ukrainian acclaimed poet, translator and professor, Ilya Kaminsky.


  • Tarrytown Music Hall‘s new Music Hall Academy will put on a series of theatrical workshops around fairy tales specifically for the picture book-aged crowd.
  • The Jazz Forum featuring live music and other performances from Brasiles Ensemble and others.

(slightly further afield)

  • Historical Society Serving Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.
  • Christ Episcopal Church (Washington Irving’s church).
  • Washington Irving’s Sunnyside.
  • Lyndhurst Estate.

LitFest Authors and Poets

  • Suzanne Chazin, Jimmy Vega Mysteries
  • Rebecca Chianese, Mercy
  • David Neilsen, Beyond the Doors, Dr. Fell
  • Jeff Altabef, Red Death series, The Point Thriller series
  • Erynn Altabef, Wind Catcher series
  • Mary Calvi, Dear George, Dear Mary
  • Siri Daly, Siriously Delicious
  • Elaine Kiely Kearns, Noah Noasaurus
  • J. W. Ocker, Death and Douglas, Poe-Land, The New York Grimpendium
  • Kristen Beddard, Bonjour Kale
  • Barbara Dee, Starcrossed, Halfway Normal
  • Susie Schnall, Subway Girls
  • Annie Silvestro, Bunny’s Book Club, Mice Skating
  • Melissa Sarno, Just Under the Clouds
  • Chris Grabenstein, Lemoncello Library series, Wonderland series
  • Nick Bruel, Bad Kitty series
  • Leslie Kimmelman, Write On, Irving Berlin and Belly Breathe
  • Phyllis Shalant, The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper
  • Nancy Viau, Beauty and Bernice, Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head
  • Kristen Sorra, Scarlet the Cat to the Rescue, Groundhog Weather School
  • J.A. White, Nightbooks and the “Thickety” series
  • Colleen Kosinski, A Promise Stitched in Time
  • Jonathan Rosen, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, From Sunset to Sunrise
  • Pat Moody, The Gravedigger’s Son
  • Dianne Salerni, The Eighth Day, The Caged Graves
  • Betsy Aldredge & Carrie DuBois-Shaw, Sasquatch, Love, and Other Imaginary Things
  • Maria Andreu, The Secret Side of Empty
  • Beth Hahn, The Singing Bone
  • Debbie Viguie, Wicked: Witch and Curse
  • Sana Krasikov, The Patriots
  • Mira T. Lee, Everything Here is Beautiful
  • Gary Golio, JIMI, Smile
  • Susanna Reich, Fab Four Friends
  • Matt McCarthy, Superbugs
  • Michael Garland, Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook
  • Mike Marlbrough, Marigold Bakes a Cake and Marigold Finds the Magic Words
  • Vesper Stamper, What the Night Sings
  • Jenna Gavigan, Lulu the Broadway Mouse
  • Drew Sheneman, Nope
  • Mark Siegel, 5 Worlds series, Sailor Twain
  • Matthew Van Fleet, Chomp, Color Dog, Tails
  • Mara Van Fleet, Mama’s Pajamas
  • Sally Cook, How to Speak sports series
  • Rinku Bhattacharya, Instant Indian, Bengali Five Spice Chronicles, Spices & Seasons
  • Jennifer Gavigan, Broadway Mouse
  • David Hicks, White Plains

At the Hudson Valley Writers Center:

  • Ilya Kaminsky
  • Iain Haley Pollock
  • Joshua Bennett
  • Nomi Stone
  • Pamela Hart
  • Chen Chen
  • Suzanne Cleary
  • BK Fischer
  • Gregory Pardlo
  • Helen Phillips
  • Lauren Acampora
  • Margo Taft Stever
  • Sean Singer
  • Michael Patrick Collins
  • Bethany Ball
  • Sana Krasikov
  • Beth Hahn, The Singing Bone
  • Sally Bliumis-Dunn
  • Ruth Danon
  • Leah Umansky
  • Chris Campanioni
  • Anton Yakovlev
  • Kem Joy Ukwu
  • Jonathan Blunk
  • Michelle Whittaker
  • Mervyn Taylor
  • Susana H. Case
  • Martha Rhodes
  • Cynthia Cruz
  • Rachel M. Simon
  • Anthony Howarth
  • Cynthia Mannick
  • Gillian Cummings
  • and others!

Click here to download schedule/time chart… (PDF – opens in new window)


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