The numbers say it all: 10,000 people.

That's how many cat video lovers attended the Walker Art Center's first Internet Cat Video Film Festival Thursday night. And they weren't all cat ladies.

That attendance figure rivals Rock the Garden, the Walker's perennially sold-out summer concert.

The cat extravaganza had all the hallmarks of a traditional film festival. There were celebrities in the audience, including Lil Bub (a charming dwarf cat) and the girl behind the YouTube sensation "Kittens Inspired by Kittens." Media from Canada and Japan covered the event. The New York Times even sent a reporter.

Cat viewers began staking out spots on the Walker's grassy hillside three hours before show time. By 8:30 p.m., the crowd covered the entire lawn and spilled onto Vineland Place, the street in front of the museum.

For the next hour, the audience belted out a sustained chorus of hysterical laughter -- plus collective fawning -- as various YouTube cat videos were shown on a large screen.

The festival was broken up by "CAT-egories" (get it?), including comedy, drama and foreign. The People's Choice Award went to "Henri 2, Paw de Deux," an introspective short film that imagines the thoughts of a cat who's come to terms with his meager existence. Its director, William Brandon, was awarded the Golden Kitty.

The festival is part of the Walker's Open Field program, which features community-driven events throughout the summer. Last week, the fest's curator, Katie Hill, said the event was one grand experiment.

"The whole point of the festival is to see if this community exists in real life," she said.

That question was answered Thursday night.

Tom Horgen • 612-673-7909 Follow him on Twitter: @tomhorgen