Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Dragon Roars Back

By C.J. Hirschfield

Topiary is the horticultural practice of training live perennial plants by clipping foliage to develop and maintain clearly defined shapes, usually geometric or fanciful. European topiary dates back to Roman times.

Walt Disney – who by now you must know was heavily influenced by Children’s Fairyland – helped bring the American portable style of topiary into being around 1962, when he used steel-wire frames through which plants extended as they grew. He re-created his cartoon characters as landscape shrubbery throughout Disneyland.

Fairyland got into the topiary game in 1999. The New York Times noted our achievement with this headline: “Dusting Off an Enchanted Land and Adding Some Dragons.” 
Behold the dragon's newly trimmed face!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Very Fairy Hair

By C.J. Hirschfield

A couple of weeks ago, six Children’s Fairyland employees chose to have sparkly metallic strands attached to their own hair. I was one of them. And we’re not alone. Others (mostly women) who have chosen to have beautifully colored,  iridescent  strands woven into their tresses include members of  Flex Gym on Piedmont Ave., partygoers in Marin, and regular patrons of an East Bay beauty salon.

Very Fairy Events was in town twice recently, for Fairyland’s Member Appreciation Day, in late August, and our adults-only Drawn Together arts event, in late September. At those events we typically offer such delights as face painting, hair chalking and henna “tattoos.” Lately, though, we’ve noticed that the fairy hair strands are really catching on.

Manda Stretch, co-owner of “Very Fairy Events,” at a Bay Area festival

Monday, October 10, 2016

Tutta la Famiglia!

By C.J. Hirschfield

For many decades, the Lake Merritt Breakfast Club has taken its annual Italian Day celebration seriously. But at last week’s party, the club, which meets every Thursday morning at 7 a.m. and supports Children’s Fairyland and the lake’s Necklace of Lights, really outdid itself.

The guest speaker was Lorenzo Ortona, who had become Italy’s consul general in San Francisco and the northwest United States only two weeks earlier. It turned out to be an Italian-American love fest, made even more magical because of a “six degrees” story that links the new consul general to Children’s Fairyland and to a special event at the park that will take place this week.

The consul general arrived at LMBC to find a big crowd in a room resplendent with green and red balloons. Frittata and biscotti were served, and shots of amaretto were offered to enhance the coffee. Local realtor Paul Valva sported a T-shirt that read “Life’s too short not to be Italian.” Raffle baskets contained pasta, sauce and wine. Before receiving their baskets, winners had to speak a word of Italian. “Gina Lollobrigida” was judged acceptable.  

C.J. Hirschfield (far left), Lorenzo Ortona (center, in gray suit), and members of the LMBC.

And who better to arrange this love fest than local caterer and LMBC Vice President Mike Miraglia, an Italian-American who describes himself as “a full-blooded Calabrese”? Asked what it is about Italians that makes them so special, Mike replied: “Our heritage, our food, our faith, fun—and, most importantly, our family.”

Which brings me to the Fairyland connection.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Getting "Realia" About Kids and Science

By C.J. Hirschfield

No, that isn’t a typo in the headline. “Realia” is a real word that means “objects and material from everyday life, especially when used as teaching aids.”

Well, Fairyland has realia in spades, and we love to share it. Case in point: beginning Oct. 11, first-graders from six underserved Oakland schools and 18 classrooms will get to see, smell and touch plants as part of our “Science Alive” program, designed to get them excited about biology.