Tuesday, May 15, 2018

When Muppets Come to Call

By C.J. Hirschfield

Children’s Fairyland boasts the longest-running puppet theater in America. Founded in 1956, it still presents three shows a day, every day we’re open.

The Storybook Puppet Theater is such a fixture in our park that we tend to take it for granted. Occasionally, though, we’ll be reminded that it has started the careers of some of the country’s greatest puppeteers, and continues to inspire those who perform one of the most ancient forms of artistic expression.

Fairyland's Storybook Puppet Theater.

Monday, May 7, 2018

After 28 Years, Author Mac Barnett Returns to Fairyland

By C.J. Hirschfield
“He is a believer that picture books can have Swiftian absurdity and untidy endings, and that ‘life is absurd, and kids know that.’”
— San Francisco Chronicle
Before he was a New York Times bestselling author, before more than 1 million copies of his books were sold in the U.S. and translated into more than 30 languages, and before his two Caldecott Honor–winning books, there was … Fairyland.
Young Mac Barnett as Peter Pan with Captain Hook (Edward Hightower) and Major Catastrophe (Carol Becksted)

Yes, Mac Barnett, the renowned author of 15 children’s books, was a Fairyland Personality when he was a youth. We’re delighted that he will join us for our Turn the Page! children’s book festival on May 19. And we like to think that the imaginary world he inhaled at our special park inspired his later fiction.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Hurray for Kid Authors!

By C.J. Hirschfield

“I glow as the night begins to fall.”  -- “From Dark to Light,” by Isabella, age 12

Once upon a time—well, three years ago—Fairyland premiered Turn the Page!, our children’s authors and illustrators book festival. It proved to be a hit, drawing over a thousand people who enjoyed interacting with more than 25 talented bookmakers who did read-alouds and demonstrations and talked about their craft with kids and parents.

A young book-lover considers the selection of books from Laurel Book Store at the 2017 Turn the Page!

For this year’s event – to be held Saturday, May 19, from 10 to 4 – we’ve decided to try something new that we’re very excited about.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Little Engine That Did

By C.J. Hirschfield

Last week, Fairyland welcomed more than a thousand guests to our first Port Day, in partnership with the good folks who operate Oakland’s popular air- and seaports. Together with its business partners, the Port of Oakland supports more than 73,000 jobs in the region, and getting kids – even little ones – excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) may ignite an interest that could lead to a career in the sciences … and perhaps at the Port.

Many wonderful hands-on activities and giveaways were on the schedule, but the big draw was the Port’s mini container crane that could be operated by the kids. The crane had not been out in the community for a number of years, so we were over-the-top excited.

But just half an hour before we were to open our fairy gates, disaster struck.

You see, although the crane is mini when compared to its huge working counterparts, it is nonetheless 12 feet tall and weighs in at about a thousand pounds. When it was pulled into our grassy meadow area, its trailer sank into the rain-soaked earth and couldn’t be extracted.

The Port of Oakland's mini crane.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Lost and Found on Head Start Day

By C.J. Hirschfield

Editor’s note: On April 20, Children’s Fairyland will host Head Start Day for Oakland Head Start children and their families. We’re grateful for support from Rogers Family Foundation, City of Oakland Head Start and – for chartered bus transportation – the Quest Foundation. To give you an idea of what Head Start Day is like, we’re republishing this column from 2011.

Last Friday we welcomed more than 2,000 Head Start kids and their family members. We were part of their Week of the Young Child Traffic, Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Fair in Oakland.

And what a day it was.

When we saw the line stretching for blocks just before opening time, we knew that, contrary to our predictions, everyone was going to arrive at once. But Team Fairyland was ready.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Port Comes to Fairyland

By C.J. Hirschfield

Although Star Wars creator George Lucas has denied it, we Oaklanders still like to believe that the AT-AT Snow Walkers from “The Empire Strikes Back” were either consciously or unconsciously influenced by our port’s massive cranes, which are used to move huge containers from ships onto waiting trucks and back again.

Full-size Port of Oakland crane.

Movie connection or no, Oakland’s cranes are undeniably super-cool. And soon Children’s Fairyland will offer kids the opportunity to operate a smaller version of them. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for years.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Very Best Medicine

By C.J. Hirschfield

What does Doyle Ott, the director of our renowned Children’s Theatre program, do when the program takes a break from summer-season rehearsals? He goes to Vienna, Austria. Not for the Alps or the waltzing, though: He’s on his way to the international Healthcare Clowning Conference.

Doyle has a Ph.D. in Theatre for Youth from Arizona State University and a certificate from the Clown Conservatory. He has trained at Circus Center and has worked with Splash Circus in Emeryville. He used to commute to work on a unicycle.

Doyle Ott in clown costume.

And he has been a member of the local Medical Clown Project for two years, visiting hospitals and shelters to bring “joy and agency” to kids and adults alike.