ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Abilene’s 10th annual Children’s Art & Literacy Festival (CALF) shattered records last weekend, returning to a pre-pandemic number of visitors while gas prices soar across the nation.

As Abilene is the official Storybook Capital of America, the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council cited a 17% increase since 2021. The council said 5,444 festivalgoers were registered for the long weekend event, from 172 cities in 17 states. That’s in comparison with the 4,642 passes sold last year.

According to Sidney Levesque, Marketing Director of the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, 2022 beat the last all-time high record of 5,200 visitors- set in 2019.

“We were thrilled that families from so many cities were able to enjoy all the performances and readings,” said Lynn Barnett, executive director of the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, which hosts CALF. “The celebration of storybooks and art provides not only a wonderful opportunity to bring families together from across the country to experience the Storybook Capital of America®, but also enhances our sense of community.”

The festival began Thursday night, June 9 and concluded Sunday at the Abilene Zoo.

This year’s CALF celebrated Caldecott Medal artist and author, Sophie Blackall. Her artwork is displayed at the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL), and will continue to be on display through the month of September. Books signed by Blackall are also available at the NCCIL giftshop.

Next year’s CALF honoree was announced Monday to be award-winning artist and author Brian Lies. That festival will be held Thursday, June 8 through Sunday, June 11 of 2023.