Wednesday, June 29, 2016

It's a Hard Hat Life

Not long ago, Bay Area Children’s Theatre’s intrepid executive director, Nina Meehan, made an announcement after an Oakland performance: The company’s next show — to be performed at Children’s Fairyland — would be based on the New York Times bestselling children’s picture book “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site,” by Sherri Duskey Rinker.  The New York Times Book Review said the story “has the ‘why hasn’t anyone thought of it before’ premise of marrying truck book and bedtime story.”

In the audience that day was company patron Becky Bullard, whose father-in-law was accompanying her and his grandchildren to the show. After the show, Becky approached the box office with a bit of news that was to have delightful consequences for the “Construction Site” production, which opened to huge crowds last weekend.

“We love the Fairyland shows,” Becky said, referring to the summer pre-kindergarten performances that take place at our park. “And my father-in-law runs the company that invented the hard hat. Do you need any?”
The hardhats featured in “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site” were donated by Bullard Company in Kentucky.  Photo: Melissa Nigro

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Free 'Happy Birthday'!

We’re reprinting this column from 2013, about the fight to release the ubiquitous “Happy Birthday” song, along with an exciting update—“a real Perry Mason moment,” as Oakland attorney Daniel Schacht puts it.

Schacht is a partner in Donahue Fitzgerald, the local law firm (known as Donahue Gallagher Woods until 2014) that has been working to bring the song into the public domain.
A birthday party at Fairyland in 1953.

Permanent Superfan

Chris Kelley has fond memories of spending time at his grandma’s house in the 1970s. Young Chris and his two sisters loved going fishing near her house in Alameda and visiting locomotives at the Harrison Railroad Park on 7th Street in Oakland (now long gone).

But Chris's very favorite thing to do was to open her utility drawer, grab a Children’s Fairyland Magic Key (she had many) and persuade her to take him to his favorite place, where the key unlocked much more than just a talking Storybook Box.

Chris moved to Texas in 1994, when he was 24. His grandmother is gone now. But the memories they shared live on, and part of his heart always remained in Oakland. At Fairyland.

Last week he returned to Fairyland with his entire family: his wife, their four kids (ages 10 to 19) and his son’s girlfriend. Also along for the visit was a stunning tattooed image on one of Chris's arms. It depicts our iconic Willie the Whale figure biting at a fishhook shaped like a Magic Key.
Fairyland superfan Chris Kelley shows off the tattoo that celebrates his lifelong love of the park.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Along Came a Garden

The kids who come to Fairyland are an inquisitive bunch, and we love their questions. We hear one of those questions nearly every day: Where has Miss Muffet gone?

In fact, the nursery-rhyme character has been away from our garden for a while. When kids ask her about Muffet, our horticulturist Jackie Salas explains that “she’s at the spa, being rejuvenated.”

Jackie is extremely happy that soon she’ll return to talking about plants instead of about Muffet, whose spider currently sits all by itself in our garden. Because not only is Muffet returning – newly rebuilt and repainted – but our tiny plot of green is being transformed into a lovely Learning Garden.

Our new Learning Garden has eye-level raised beds.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

No More Carrot Kisses

A 1994 news release from Children’s Fairyland read:  “Coming to join Woolly the sheep, MilkDud the cow and Japhar the cockatoo, Children’s Fairyland’s live storybook animals, is a beautiful 4-year-old alpaca. This new arrival, born and raised in the United States, will bring delight to Bay Area children and their families who have never seen a live alpaca.”

Unlike our sheep (“Mary Had a Little Lamb”), our donkeys (“Pinocchio”) and rabbits (the stories of Beatrix Potter), our alpaca didn’t tie into any fairytale or storybook that we knew of. But it didn’t matter: Señor Juan’s soulful face, liquid eyes, beautiful lope and quirky personality endeared him to staff and guests of all ages.
Juan the alpaca

Because of an insurmountable health issue, we had to say goodbye to Juan last week. He was 25 years old, well past the average lifespan of alpacas, and his passing resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of love and appreciation.