Tuesday, January 2, 2018

All Keyed Up

By C.J. Hirschfield

“I’m a sane person,” Lela McKenna assures me. “I just have a singular obsession with Fairyland’s Magic Key.”

No kidding.

Lela – one of Fairyland’s most active volunteers – still has her very first key, which she believes she acquired in 1968. “It’s yellow, and it has the original tag,” she says.
Children’s Fairyland’s iconic Magic Key made its debut a decade earlier, in 1958. It unlocks the many storybook boxes in our park, releasing musical stories tied to our fanciful sets. For generations of Bay Area kids, the Magic Key has represented positive memories of time spent with loved ones in our little urban oasis.
Lela McKenna, volunteer extraordinaire.

Monday, December 11, 2017

There's a New Santa in Town!

By C.J. Hirschfield

A security guard for the Raiders. A longtime home healthcare attendant for a senior with Altzheimer’s. A volunteer at Children’s Fairyland for 14 years.

Eric Martin is all of the above, and we could not be more excited about his debut this Friday, the first day of our Fairy Winterland, as the park’s official St. Nick. His life experiences have taught him what it takes to excel in the position.

Eric Martin as Santa.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Ron Zeno Day

By C.J. Hirschfield

I’ve written before about longtime Fairyland friend Ron Zeno, who died in June. Ron was Fairyland’s beloved Santa for nearly two decades, as well as a Fairyland board member, a puppet-show voice artist and a regular reader at our Friday Toddler Storytime sessions.

Now I’m pleased to announce that Friday, Dec. 1, has been proclaimed “Ron Zeno Day” by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. We’ll be honoring Ron’s memory at Fairyland that day in several ways.

Ron Zeno reading "Please, Baby, Please" at Toddler Storytime.

Monday, November 20, 2017

We ❤ Our Volunteers

By C.J. Hirschfield

As a small, local nonprofit, Children’s Fairyland depends on volunteers for many of our activities. We work with many local organizations and corporations, but individual volunteers are hugely important to us. How important? Well, this year 400 individual volunteers donated 1,600 hours of time to Fairyland, helping to ensure that our 67-year-old jewel of a park continues to shine.

Two weeks ago, we held a special event – food, drink, toasts – to honor and thank these dedicated people, whose work is matched to their varied interests and talents. Many have found a second home at Fairyland, where we shower them with fairy love. Here are a few of their stories.

Monday, November 6, 2017

West Oakland Welcomes 4-H

By C.J. Hirschfield

4-H: It’s not just for farm kids anymore.

Though historically an agricultural organization, 4-H today focuses on citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering, and technology programs. As you might imagine, rural 4-H clubs – which comprise 2.6 million young members – still dominate. But I was surprised to learn that urban clubs come in second, ahead of suburban.

Until this year, Livermore led Alameda County in the number of 4-H clubs, with three. But now it’s a tie: Yes, Oakland, California, now has three 4-H clubs as well, as we welcome the City Slicker Farms 4-H After School Group from West Oakland. City Slicker is joining Oak Town (based in the Diamond district) and Montclair (winners of four ribbons in the swine category at the 2013 Alameda County Fair).

And Fairyland is proud to be their partner.

The City Slickers Farm 4-H Club pollinator class. Fairyland horticulturist Jackie Salas is standing, right, in cap.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Downtown Organisms

By C.J. Hirschfield

During a lunch break last week, I had the opportunity to view, up close, the gonads of a flatworm. How could I pass that up?

When I was young, I dreamed of being a naturalist. So when the California Center for Natural History sent an e-mail describing a “Pop-Up Aquarium” within walking distance of Fairyland, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here was their pitch:

“Come see all of the wonderful critters that call the waters of Lake Merritt home. During the summer months Oakland’s jewel blooms with all sorts of exciting marine organisms ranging from bat rays to shrimp!”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Teddy Bear's Tattoo

By C.J. Hirschfield

Oakland resident Phil Wong, 27, is an actor, educator, musician, and comic. He’s also a featured performer in Fairyland’s latest Theatre for the Very Young (TVY) production, “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” Until the show opened, Phil hadn’t been at Fairyland since he was very young himself. So we were surprised to notice that he sports a tattoo of our Magic Key on his arm.

Clearly, he had come home.

Phil Wong's Magic Key tattoo.