I applaud the authors who appeared at the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival — you attracted a great crowd, and gave your time and voices to many on a hot summer day. It’s so good to see that people are still interested in the printed word and presumably buying and reading books. Thank you for coming to Chilmark and the Community Center. I applaud the organizers who staged, all in all, a successful event.

My criticism is brief but definite. Every public parking venue, near the Chilmark Community Center was cordoned off, reserved for sponsors. Though I am a year-round resident and taxpayer in Chilmark, I was not allowed to enter any of those parking areas: the CCC itself, the bank where my entire family have accounts, the post office, the Chilmark School. The lots were not all filled up. To be sure, I had not paid for the privilege of parking as a sponsor. All the newspaper ads for the event have the word free — no mention of a requirement to pay, as a sponsor, in order to gain access to town parking areas for the event.

I did not argue with the young guards who were courteous and patient while standing firm by the cordoned off access to the parking areas — not an enviable position.

Finally I was able to park at the Chilmark Store, where the parking area was not blocked; only a small sign was posted that said “No Festival Parking.” I made my required purchase as a customer, and carefully walked the short distance across State Road to the Community Center where my chosen author Kwame Onwuachi was talking with another author, Jessica Harris, about his recently published book, Notes From A Young Black Chef. My anxiety about the uncertain parking of my car kept me from hearing the entire presentation. So I left, slightly embarrassed, as Kwame was speaking. Fortunately, on the way out, I passed the book tent — there I purchased Kwame’s book, a fascinating, spirited, truthful memoir. I left happy enough — with my prize book, and my car still standing where I’d parked it.

I did not return for more sessions (I wanted to!) because the parking problem was simply exhausting and discouraging. Directions for parking at Beetlebung Farm stand had been offered, and later I learned that attendees were parking at the Chilmark Community Church, and Julianne Flanders’s field, all generous and thoughtful allowances from town residents. From those areas it is a hot hike along narrow, traffic-filled roads to the CCC. I witnessed several close calls, as people stepped out into South Road from a confined patch of grass to cross the road, in unmarked areas, from Beetlebung Corner to the Community Center or back. I admire those attendees who had to park at a distance yet still braved the burning sun and vehicle-packed roadway to walk to the event.

I also can walk and am fairly fit for an 83 year old — but still, not one exception for a resident senior to that exclusive parking arrangement? At the least, a crossing guard or police detail would have been a help to all, pedestrians and drivers as well. I believe that events staged in Chilmark should not be in any way exclusive, especially of residents who live here year round, pay their taxes, and help keep the town and CCC operational. The desired exception here needs to be the rule: All parking areas should be open to all attendees, Chilmarkers or no, seniors or no, and only closed when filled to the max.

Might such an open policy, plus a police presence, help clear the roads of circling vehicules and traffic tieups? Let us hope.

Sally Cook