If you stop by Abilene’s Convention Center you’ll find busy city maintenance workers, landscape artists planting flowers and volunteers painting rebar. People are working overtime to get the Adamson-Spalding Storybook Garden finished in time for the Children’s Art and Literacy Festival.
Few people feel the weight of that deadline more than Pam Tippen. She’s an Abilene Cultural Affairs Council board member and she’s overseeing the garden.
“There’s only three weeks to go and it’s making me a nervous wreck,” Tippen said on a recent evening while watching construction work happening in the garden.
She tells everyone that the garden will be finished by June 8, no matter what.
“Now, we may be out here the night before setting a sculpture or I may be up with a spray can up on top of a ladder, but, it is going to be done,” Tippen said.
And when it does open, visitors will walk through the garden stopping at several bronze sculptures all of which come from books illustrated by Garth Williams. There’s "The Three Little Kittens," followed by "Stuart Little" and then the "Three Little Pigs." Next come "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." Goldilocks is running through several crepe myrtles.
Tippen said all the plants in the garden were carefully selected so that city maintenance staff would not be over worked. There are six thousand jasmine plants and crossvine will spread out above the entire space creating a real Charlotte’s Web.
“Charlotte is the one that was taking care of Wilbur and all his ancestors and all her children,” Tippen said. “So this is a generational place.”
Tippen said the garden will be passed on from one Abilene generation to the next because the people in Abilene are “amazing” and Abilene’s generations always take care of the next.
Also overhead lights will be strung up between poles made of twisted rebar. Down below, the walking path is made of poured rubber. There is a friendship stage that can serve as a place for storybook readings and only half of the garden is filled with the bronze sculptures, leaving space for future art. There are 37 benches throughout the garden, each one has an engraved storybook quote on it about life values. Tippen said she hopes parents will read the quotes and teach their children about values.
“This is a place for families, it also is a place for people to just stop and take a minute and rest and enjoy the beauty,” Tippen said. “But I expect there to be a whole lot of laughter running through this place.”