Monday, March 11, 2019

Juror #12

By C.J. Hirschfield

On a chilly day in January, the potential jury pool at the Alameda County Courthouse in downtown Oakland started out with what looked to be more than 150 people. Many were let go with hardship excuses; a good number needed to postpone their duty and were assigned later dates. I had already postponed once; summer is not a time when the boss at Children’s Fairyland can get away.

Alameda County Courthouse, 1225 Fallon St., Oakland

I’m old enough to have been required to take a civics course in high school, and I really do believe, as I’d been taught, that jurors are key to the administration of justice. So there I was, still kinda hoping I wouldn’t be called. When we were asked on a questionnaire whether we knew any lawyers, and I honestly answered that I’m married to one, I thought I might be disqualified. But no – I became juror number 12 in a civil case that was expected to last for five whole weeks. (One young lady literally threw some kind of fit in her quest to be excused—tears, muscle spasms and histrionics. It worked.)

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Alexa, You're Scary

By C.J. Hirschfield

“Echo Dot Kids: It’s sturdy! It’s safe! It’s kid friendly! It’s transaction free!”
The Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) would add another line to that Amazon marketing copy: It’s a marketing device!

Amazon released the Echo Dot Kids Edition, a voice-activated assistant that the company calls “a smart speaker with Alexa for kids,” in May 2018. CCFC, which advocates for the end of child-targeted marketing, is countering with presentations to various groups and conferences around the country. I just viewed one such presentation, geared toward software developers, and I learned a lot.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Boomer Bye-Byes

By C.J. Hirschfield

It’s public: After 17 years at the helm of Children’s Fairyland, I will be stepping out of my ruby slippers, hanging up my big wings and finding out what other magical adventures await me beyond our beloved park. And I am not alone. Over just the past few months, four other executive directors of high-performing local nonprofits have announced their departures.

Get ready, because there will be a wave of Baby Boomer retirements from the nonprofit sector, representing a remarkable opportunity for younger—and more diverse—leaders to rise.

"Welcome to your staff meeting!" C.J. Hirschfield and team in a 2005 photo

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Rotary Nature Center Is Back!

By C.J. Hirschfield

“I spent many happy hours here when I was growing up, trying to find the queen bee at the Rotary Nature Center’s hive,” said Oakland’s own queen bee, Mayor Libby Schaaf. She was referring to the hive that fascinated generations of kids and adults at this treasured institution in Lakeside Park. The center was closed for two years, but it’s back now, along with many new exhibits and programs, as we learned at the grand reopening last Saturday.

Inside the reopened Rotary Nature Center
For the last year, I’ve been honored to be part of a core team working to restore, reimagine and reopen the center. On Saturday we joined civic officials and center supporters to welcome the community back in – with some fanfare – to see some of the  changes that have been made, and to celebrate the 66-year-old institution that has meant so much to so many Oakland kids and adults.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Making Fairyland More Accessible

By C.J. Hirschfield

Tory Rose Full will graduate from UC Berkeley this year with a double major in psychology and social welfare. But we think it’s her minor – “education and the developing child” — that led her to become Fairyland’s UC Berkeley Public Service Center intern.

When she arrived, she took on a project we’ve long wanted to implement: increasing Fairyland’s accessibility for guests with special needs. We want to create more opportunities for guests with special needs to connect to the park – not just by removing barriers but also by delivering active benefits. We’re delighted about the work she’s doing, and thought you might want to hear about it.

Tory Full in Fairyland's Chapel of Peace, a spot we've identified as a quiet space for kids with special needs

Monday, January 28, 2019

Heartstrings: Remembering Larry Schmidt, Master Puppeteer

By C.J. Hirschfield

Commercialization and gore are key components of American Halloween these days. But one Oakland artist was committed to providing an alternative experience: a free, site-specific, Halloween-themed, family-friendly marionette show in the driveway of his family’s triplex in the Glenview District.

Larry Schmidt’s whimsical “Driveway Follies” has delighted many thousands of people over the last 11 years, and, I’m proud to say, has employed the talents of at least eight Children’s Fairyland puppeteers. We are all mourning Larry, a kind and generous soul who died at 66, of cancer, on January 18.

Larry Schmidt, founder of Driveway Follies. Photo by Rick Paulas.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Food for Thought

By C.J. Hirschfield

Over the course of a week, two Fairyland staffers attended two very different food events.

One was work related: Café manager Amber Swanson perused the annual Winter Fancy Food Show held in San Francisco, where we scout for new and healthy options for our café.

The other event—thankfully—was not work related: Our communications manager, Nancy Friedman, journeyed to Los Angeles for the Disgusting Food Museum exhibition.

Where do these worlds meet? Possibly in a product we’re considering for sale in our gift shop.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.