By Grace Anne Rhodes
Anyone who loves to get caught up in a storybook world has found the right place here in Abilene TX. From the dancing bronze sculptures in Everman Park and the Storybook Garden to the musty scent of books piled high in the convention center, Abilene tradition has a lot to offer for the literary minded. For summer in particular, the Children’s Art and Literacy Festival and Friends of the Library Book Sale most certainly warrant a bookmark in your summer schedule.
The Children’s Art and Literacy Festival
Locally known as the CALF festival, the tenth Children’s Art and Literacy festival will take place Thursday June 9th through Saturday June 11th in Downtown Abilene. This marks a decade since the first CALF festival in 2012 paid homage to revered author and illustrator Dr. Seuss, and the festival’s tradition of honoring a different children’s artist every year continues with illustrator Sophie Blackall. Blackall, an Australian artist based in Brooklyn, NY, has illustrated more than 50 children’s books including the Ivy + Bean series - which my own sister Chloe was obsessed with in the third grade.
Blackall herself will be available to sign books from 9 a.m through 11 a.m at the NCILL on Friday and Saturday. There will also be readings of Blackall’s work and activities to follow so check out the CALF festival website for exact dates and times. Children are encouraged to dress up as characters for a costume contest, view original artwork displayed at the NCILL, follow along with a parade ending in the Adamson-Spalding Storybook garden, and much more for free on Thursday. Friday’s and Saturday’s events do require a pass.
Life of Pie will also be at the CALF festival so drop by and say hi for some pie!
Contrary to its given name, I’d recommend the festival for all ages. For me personally, the festival is a wonderful opportunity to revisit beautiful downtown areas and see what Abilene has to offer. It is a truly magical time as the festival inspires the little minds of the next generation, creates an appreciation for art and literature, and imbues us older Abilenians with a sense of creativity, possibility, and childlike wonder.
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The Friends of the Library Book Sale
The Friends of the Library Book Sale - which will take place from Thursday June 16th through Sunday June 19th - is one of my favorite Abilene traditions since I can remember. The book sale is the Friends’ biggest event and all proceeds go directly to the Abilene Public Library System, which offers many services for the community of Abilene.
The whole sale will be held at the Abilene Civic Center downtown. Thursday is a preview sale for Friends’ members who get to reap the bookish boon of first pick. You can also purchase a membership for the Friends of the Library at this time. Friday and Saturday are open to the public, so come ready to sort through the many different books the sale has to offer. There are different prices for different types of books, CDs, records, and cassettes all of which ballpark in the $1 to $2 dollar range. However - if you can manage to wait - in my opinion, Sunday is the real treat.
My family and I always go on Sunday, because on Sunday the sale opts for the BAG-O-BOOKS method where $6.oo gets you a bag to fill with as many books you can fit. I say challenge accepted! I personally find this method of purchasing books from the sale to be quite a bit more fun and an absolute steal if you are smart about how you arrange your books in your bag. I have seen many book bags that defy all known laws of physics and reason in order to fit as many books as possible in one bag. The sale offers children’s books, young adult books, books on history, science and math, art, religion, photography - almost every subject imaginable. There will also be a section dedicated to antique and unique collectibles.
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These two wonderful Abilene traditions are part of what makes this community so special. We value education and creativity, and these avenues are constantly expanding for the people of Abilene. As a voracious reader and native Abilenian myself, these events satisfy my book loving heart, and remind me what a wonderful place Abilene is to live. We’re not perfect, but we do have a lot to offer for those who are willing to look beneath the surface and are open to a little creativity.