Ask Welz Kauffman what gets people excited each year at the Tucson Festival of Books and his answer might surprise you.

It’s all about the lines, he says.

“You’ll be in line with other people (waiting for authors and panel discussions) and you’ll inevitably end up in conversations,” said Kauffman, who was tapped to be the festival’s new executive director in December. “There is this sense of community.”

Of course, it’s what awaits festivalgoers at the ends of those lines that truly get them on their feet: This year, that includes hundreds of authors, journalists and celebrities with books, including Ed Begley, Jr., Bob Odenkirk, Dan Patrick, R.L. Stine and Alisyn Camerota.

Kauffman’s background is in music. He served as the President and CEO of the Ravinia Festival, North Americas oldest outdoor summer music festival, outside of Chicago for 20 years.

“That’s 150 concerts a year, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and everybody from Lady Gaga to Tony Bennett to Lauryn Hill to Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. It was an incredibly fun place to work; 600,000 visitors every summer.”

He is currently the managing director of True Concord Voices & Orchestra in Tucson.

One of his favorite things about the Festival of Books (besides the lines) is what it offers to children and teens. Areas at the festival, such as Science City and the Literary Circus, provide entertaining ways to draw them into the written word.

“Young people today need to get in the habit of reading,” Kauffman said. “…I would like to amp that up as much as possible.”

Kauffman is only three days into his new position. This year’s festival, taking place March 9 and 10 at the University of Arizona, will be all about learning the ins-and-outs of the event to prepare him for 2025.

“I’ll really be able to sense it, feel it, know what’s happening,” Kauffman said.

The director steps into the role completely aware of what a powerhouse event it is for the city. Established in 2009, more than 100,000 people attend the fest each year.

“Everybody knows what this is,” he said. “It is like a street fair with books. It is incredibly fun to do.”