Postponing last year’s Children’s Art & Literacy Festival was one of the hardest decisions the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council has had to make, said Lynn Barnett, the council’s executive director. She said it was the right thing to do given that most major events across the state and U.S. were canceled due to safety concerns with the pandemic.
“We missed seeing all the families downtown wearing their CALF shirts and taking photos with our costumed characters,” Barnett said. “But it was more important to keep everyone safe. We’re thrilled to be able to host the festival this year.”
CALF is back on track in 2021 with safety measures in place such as required face masks and enhanced cleaning. Tractors, trucks and bats of all kinds will take center stage at the festival June 10-12. The CALF will bring to life a variety of books by best-selling illustrator and author Loren Long. Downtown Abilene will be transformed into a storybook adventure with costumed characters, dramatic readings and performers at 17 venues.
The festival kicks off to the public on Thursday night, June 10, with a Loren Long character costume contest followed by the Storybook Parade, the unveiling of bronze sculptures of Otis the tractor and his calf friend and artist talk and book signing. Long has written and illustrated nine books in the Otis the tractor series. Long has putt-puff-puttedy-chuffed his way all over the bestseller lists with the Otis titles as well as a new edition of The Little Engine That Could, the Trucktown series, Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna, Nightsong about Chiro the bat, and two baseball chapter book series.
Long will be in Abilene for the opening of his art exhibition at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature. Friday and Saturday, festival registrants can choose from a vast selection of enriching activities scattered throughout downtown. Children will collect keepsake buttons for their festival lanyards as they complete each activity, which includes dramatic readings of Long’s most popular books, train rides, musical instrument petting zoo, and perennial childhood favorites like a magician and balloon sculptor.
New this year is a “Trucktown” Touch-a-Truck event where children can explore and touch a variety of vehicles of all sizes. The last festival drew nearly 5,300 people from 91 Texas cities and 12 states.
Registration is open and passes are $8 for children ages 3 to 12 (2 and under are free) and $13 for ages 13 and up. After May 15, passes cost $11 for children and $16 for adults.
CALF is presented by the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, an affiliate of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce dedicated to promoting the arts and enriching lives in Abilene. For more information and full schedule of events, visit www.abilenecalf.com or call 325-677-1161.
THURSDAY, JUNE 10 (No pass required)
4 p.m. Costume Contest
5-8 p.m. Loren Long NCCIL exhibition opens
5:30 p.m. Storybook Parade
6:15 p.m. Storybook Sculpture Unveiling
6:30 p.m. Otis’s Putt Puff Puttedy Party
7 p.m. Artist Talk & Book Signing
FRIDAY & SATURDAY, JUNE 11-12 (Pass required)
9 a.m.-3 p.m. Little Sluggers
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Loren Long NCCIL Exhibition
9 a.m.-4 p.m. The STEAM Room
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Cookie Decorating
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Abilene Philharmonic’s Instrument Petting Zoo
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Train Rides
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Palette of Purpose Chalk Art
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dramatic Readings & Art Activities
9 a.m. Balloon & Magic Show
9 a.m. Geppetto’s Marionette Theater
9-11 a.m. Loren Long Book Signing
9-11 a.m. Touch A Truck
9:45 a.m. “The Little Engine That Could” at the
Abilene Public Library
10 a.m. Joe McDermott Music
10 a.m.-3 p.m. Otis’s Farm Friends Petting Zoo
10:15 a.m. Laughter League
10:30 a.m. Geppetto’s Marionette Theater
11 a.m. Balloon & Magic Show
12 p.m. Joe McDermott Music
12 p.m. Geppetto’s Marionette Theater
1 p.m. Balloon & Magic Show
1 p.m. Laughter League
1:30 p.m. Geppetto’s Marionette Theater
2 p.m. Joe McDermott Music
2:30 p.m. Laughter League
3 p.m. Geppetto’s Marionette Theater
3 p.m. Balloon & Magic Show
4-5 p.m. Best of New York International Children’s Film Festival
4:15 p.m. Geppetto’s Marionette Theater
6 p.m. Friday “Cars” movie at Paramount
6:30 p.m. Friday NCCIL dinner with Loren Long
6 p.m. Saturday “The Rookie” movie at Paramount
Storybook Characters Breakfast
Enchanted Storybook Café
Professional development for teachers
By Sidney Schuhmann Levesque