Monday, November 5, 2018

Tagging Fairyland's Monarchs

By C.J. Hirschfield

Last week, Fairyland horticulturist Jackie Salas realized a dream she’d doggedly been pursuing for four years: the right to put a tag on the wing of a monarch butterfly that hails from Fairyland’s gardens. What may result from her quest could make a difference for our planet.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Garden as Inspiration

Children’s Fairyland was proud to once again participate in this year’s Autumn Lights Festival at the Gardens at Lake Merritt across the street – we think it was the best ever! We wanted to share a column written by Tora Rocha, the festival’s overall director and the woman who inspired and continues to oversee this incredible fundraiser for the Gardens. We also wanted to let folks know about the generous support provided by Niantic, the San Francisco–based software company best known for developing the augmented-reality mobile games Ingress, Pokémon GO, and the upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. 

The Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt is a nonprofit organization set up to maintain and support the Gardens at Lake Merritt, and the Autumn Lights Festival helps raise funds for the ongoing support of the Gardens. 
 C.J. Hirschfield, executive director, Children’s Fairyland

By Tora Rocha 

For the past seven years we’ve hosted the Autumn Lights Festival at the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland. The purpose is to showcase the amazing array of light artists in the Bay Area, as well as to raise funds for the ongoing maintenance and beautification of the Gardens themselves. As the City of Oakland’s park supervisor of the Gardens at Lake Merritt, I had decided I needed to find a way to raise money and awareness of the Gardens, since it was a little-known secret in the community. I came up with the idea of a nighttime event to light up the Gardens with local artists. 

Tora Rocha at the 2018 Autumn Lights Festival. Photo by John Kirkmire

In the years that we’ve hosted the Autumn Lights Festival, we have met more and more amazing community members who see the Gardens in a new light.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Días de los Muertos at Fairyland

By C.J. Hirschfield

Halloween is more than just one night at the nation’s theme and amusement parks: it’s an entire season. Starting even before Labor Day in some places, Halloween festivities – including special experiences that usually require separate admission – allow parks to extend their typical summer season and to keep earning money well into the fall. As a result, Halloween is now huge business at parks.

At Fairyland? Well, we offer Jack o’Lantern Jamboree the weekend before Halloween – October 27 and 28 this year. No extra charge, half off for members, with tons of treat giveaways and special events. We also “theme out” parts of the park with special designs.

Last year, for the first time, we created a Días de los Muertos environment in our Alice in Wonderland Tunnel. It worked so well for us that Fairyland’s director of art and restoration, Shannon Taylor, is bringing it back this year.

The White Rabbit in front of the Alice in Wonderland Tunnel wearing a Dias de los Muertos mask

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Gift Registry for Fairyland's Animals

By C.J. Hirschfield

Ever since we opened in 1950, animals have been an important part of Children’s Fairyland. Back in the day, we had alligators, monkeys, cows, pigs, peacocks, parrots, and sea lions. Now we have 18 animals, none of them carnivores: donkeys, sheep, dwarf goats, mini horses, chickens, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs and a bearded dragon. They delight our regular guests as well as our field trip and summer camp kids. We even have a junior animal caretaker program that teaches foster kids to care for our gentle animals.

Today a special delivery arrived for the animal department: the very first items ordered from our new Amazon animal gift registry. We giddily opened the box containing one “Knotty Girlz Premium 9/16" braid polyester horse lead rope natural horsemanship w/loop” ($28.95, rainbow color) and one “Safari Soft Slicker Brush w/ Stainless Steel Pins ($7.88).”

Animal manager Melissa Tauber in her office with donated gift-registry items

Monday, October 1, 2018

Save That Monster!

By C.J. Hirschfield

When William Penn Mott Jr. was head of Oakland’s Parks Department in the 1950s, he got things done. Crazy, cool things. Like helping create Children’s Fairyland. And like commissioning a well-known jeweler to design a wildly modernist play structure on the beach in Lakeside Park.

Fairyland has been revived and now thrives. The sculpture? After years of being in a sad state of disrepair, help seems to be on the way, as a group of committed community members works toward making the “Mid-Century Monster” once again a delightful play experience.

Sly, the Family Stone, and the Mid-Century Monster (1968)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


By C.J. Hirschfield

Quinn Costello’s new documentary film has it all: food, fashion, music and joy. The fact that its subject is 30-pound rodents that are taking over Louisiana – and encroaching on California – just makes it that much more interesting.

Rodents of Unusual Size will have its East Bay premiere on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at the New Parkway Theater. As soon as I heard about it, I marked my calendar.

Poster for "Rodents of Unusual Size"

Monday, September 17, 2018

Illustrating Community: Drawn Together at Fairyland

By C.J. Hirschfield

Here at Fairyland, we love it when our various worlds collide. Or overlap. Or meld.

At our popular Turn the Page! children’s book festival, held in May, we got to know some fantastically talented artists and illustrators. Now six of them -- Wednesday Kirwan, Elisa Kleven, Michael Slack, Simone Shin, Emily Dove and Michael Wertz – will be joining us on Friday, Sept. 28, for our annual Drawn Together arts event, a grownups-only, after-hours celebration of local art and artists.