ABILENE, Texas — Otis the tractor plowed his way into people’s hearts at Abilene's ninth annual Children’s Art & Literacy Festival, celebrating the art of Loren Long.
Abilene Cultural Affairs Council Executive Director Lynn Barnett said Saturday in a press release the festival drew people from more states and more Texas cities to the Storybook Capital of America than ever before.
The CALF registered 4,642 people from 156 Texas cities and 25 other states and had an international registration from the United Kingdom. Additionally, 500 volunteers helped make the festival possible.
Festival honoree Loren long is a best-selling author and illustrator whose original artwork opened at an exhibit at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature Thursday night. Long told the crowds at his artist talk at Paramount Theatre he was amazed at how much the city celebrates reading.
“What you are doing in Abilene is creating a safe haven for children,” he said.
Children ask him all the time where Otis is from and Long said “now I will tell them Abilene, Texas!”
Barnett said Long was thrilled with his NCCIL exhibit and festival activities.
“He and his family could not have been more gracious and enthusiastic about the weekend,” she said.
Long rode in the Storybook Parade Thursday night and unveiled the bronze “Otis the Tractor” and “Otis’ Friend Calf” sculptures based on his book, “Otis,” in the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden. The event continued Thursday night at the garden with “Otis’ Putt Puff Puttedy Party” with food trucks and entertainment.
Festival activities took place all day Friday and Saturday as people earned up to 12 buttons for their lanyards at locations downtown. Long’s books were brought to life through performances, costumed characters and take-home art activities.
New this year was Touch a Truck inspired by Long’s “Trucktown” book series, Little Sluggers baseball area inspired by his “Barnstormers” and “Sluggers” book series, and The S.T.E.A.M. Room with science experiments based on his books.
The Abilene Zoo is offering to allow people wearing their CALF passes to enter for free Sunday.
Next year’s CALF honoree is NCCIL Summer 2022 artist Sophie Blackall. The event is planned for June 9-11, 2022.