Monday, May 1, 2017

A Good Hat Trick

By C.J. Hirschfield

Jennifer Hurlburt, Fairyland’s groundskeeper of six months, was sad.

As she worked around the park—watering, pruning, planting, weeding—children seemed to be actively avoiding her. But why?

Eventually Jennifer, who doesn’t have children and who had never been inside our fairy gates before she applied for a job here, realized what the problem might be. But it took a lost child for her to make the connection.

At Fairyland, it’s a rite of passage for employees to find their first lost kid. It’s a good feeling to reunite a family and see their joy. But when Jennifer found her first lost kid, he told her she was scary and refused to go with her to the office. He actually wanted to hide.

It wasn’t just that one kid, Jennifer realized. Child after child had been telling her she looked scary. Sure, she’s often ... well, “filthy” is her word. But that wasn’t the problem.

The problem was on her head.

The fair-skinned Jennifer, originally from Cape Cod, Mass., wears a hat when she’s working. Her most functional hat was a khaki number with a broad brim and flaps that covered her hair and ears. It looked a little military, and it was the reason kids were keeping their distance.

Jennifer's khaki hat.

The day of the lost kid, Jennifer went directly to Michael’s Art Supply after work. She bought a new hat, some “cheesy flowers” (her term) and a fabric butterfly. She pinned on the adornments and added three Fairyland Magic Keys for extra pizzazz.

Jennifer's festive new hat. Photo: Maria Rodriguez.

Time to test her theory.

Voilà! “There was an instant change,” she says. Not only was she now approachable, but she was actually popular! Kids were staring at her head, fascinated.

And guess what? “Two girls were lost and crying—and they asked me for help!” she says. In fact, one of the girls pointed to her hat, and her tears became laughter.

“I feel much better,” says Jennifer. “It was so sad that children found me offensive—that’s clearly not your goal at a children’s park.”

Jennifer fell in love with Fairyland at first sight, claiming that as soon as she saw our Willie the Whale, she was hooked. The fact that we’re all about creativity and not commercialism made her happy.

Jennifer says she now has a better connection with the kids. “Normally, gardening work is a solitary profession,” she says. “But being able to do the work and visit with people is very cheerful.”

Now that Jennifer knows that “it wasn’t me—it was my hat!” a new challenge has arisen.
A child was experiencing a meltdown, and to make things better Jennifer gave the kid one of her hat’s Magic Keys. The gesture saved the day, but her hat looked a little bare.

The newest color of our Magic Key. (Want a key of your own? Go to our online store!)

Good thing Jennifer works at Children’s Fairyland, where Magic Keys sometimes magically appear where and when they’re needed. 

C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park.

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