The Eighth Annual Children’s Art and Literacy Festival is underway in downtown Abilene. Organizers kicked off the three-day event with the costume contest and Storybook parade.
“These are my grandchildren. I invited them to come from Ft. Worth and they are here for the CALF festival”
This is the second year Twana Willis has brought her granddaughters in to attend the Children’s Art and Literacy Festival. They were also part of last year’s record breaking crowds of more than 5,100 attendees.
Virginia’s crew of five cousins took off their own costumes to enjoy their special cookie sandwiches while the parade passed by. “We’re from Dublin, a couple of hours away. It’s a lot of fun!” Virginia asked the kids what they were most looking forward too. They expressed excitement about the magic show, which they remember from last year, and just generally having fun. Their grandmother said last year the kids looked forward to all the dramatic readings, and finding out which book they’d hear at each location they visited.
Families lined Cypress Street last night dancing, cheering, and waving to the passing storybook characters and organizations taking part in the kickoff parade.
Ashley Goff chose characters from Brown’s books to dress her children for the contest and the parade. Her daughter was Jasper Rabbit from the Creepy Carrots!, and her son Logan had his hair spiked high as Bobby from My Teacher is a Monster.
Logan was glad to cool off in the storybook sculpture garden after the parade, waiting for his turn to see Mr. Tiger. “It’s all about the statues and all the characters,” he said. “They’re so cool!”
This year’s festival features author, Peter Brown, has won numerous awards both for writing and illustrating. After riding up Cypress Street in the parade, Brown greeted those waiting to see the newest statue unveiled at the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden.
Brown joked about it being “Peter Brown Day” in Abilene, “I’m glad you’re here with me.” He told those gathered in the garden, “Otherwise I’d be celebrating by myself. If you had told me at the beginning of my career as an author and illustrator that someday there’d be a life sized tiger sculpture, based on my character, in Abilene, Texas, I would have thought you were crazy.”
After Mr. Tiger’s unveiling, the crowd moved on to the Paramount Theater where Brown talked about how he got started writing and illustrating children’s books. He told the crowd having an artist in the family helped him take art more seriously.
“So when I was a kid I’d visit my grandparents. And I’d see this old man making art.” Brown said, drawing laughs from the audience. “And I remember thinking to myself, ‘Someday I want to be an old man making art.’ And look at me now. I’m not quite that old, but I’m gettin’ there.”
Brown said all of his stories are inspired by his own life, even the crazy ones. He showed the audience samples of his early work, including the first book he wrote at the age of 6, after his dog Buffy had run away, and spent a night off on his own. “I couldn’t stop wondering what had he been doing all night long.” Brown described his six-year-old response to his dogs return the next morning, “What do dogs do when we’re not around? What do dogs do when they have the freedom to go where they want? Was he playing with the forest creatures that lived behind my house? Maybe he was playing with the farm animals across the street. I’ll never know.” He says that incident triggered his imagination, “And after a while, I invented this whole, silly story about my dog and I getting lost in the woods together and having to spend the night away from home together. And I turned that into my very first book. And I’ve been making books ever since.”
The exhibit “A Time And Place For Everything: Peter Brown” is now on display at the NCCIL.
The Children’s Art and Literacy Festival will continue through Saturday evening with dozens of events featuring hands on activities for all ages. Some events, including “Make Your Own Storybook Sculpture” and the Write and Illustrate Your Own Storybook workshops are sold out. But families still have a wide range of options including book signings, musical shows, movies, and puppet shows.
CALF organizers have already started making plans for next year’s festival, which will feature Loren Long.