This weekend I took my daughter and a friend of ours to the NY Fairie Festival. I'd seen an ad pop up on Facebook (why yes, FB, I am interested in that too), and followed a hunch. My husband and I do not overbook our kids. We will not schedule their days full, partly for selfish reasons, but they seem to appreciate that and love unstructured play time. I do like to throw in some big fun once in a while that will create, I hope, childhood memories that never fade. So we donned whatever fairy stuff we could put together (for me it was the ribbon and flower garland from my wedding--it was a magic day after all) and drove more than 2 hours one way.
It was so worth it.
The day was warm and sunny, but there was lots of shade. Everything was tucked into forests and fields, creeks and hills, and in many cases you couldn't tell the visitors from the actors. Adults and kids and pets all dressed up. Everyone talked to each other—there were no strangers but you needed to watch for the trolls. They have no manners and muddy hands. There was a reasonable entry fee and the performances were for tips and the activities were free. There were many artisan vendors with leather masks and horns, and colorful garb, and face painting and, and, and.... There was too much to take in our first time.
This was a wonderful use of outdoor spaces. On one hand the world it created wasn't real, but in another way it made me more aware of the magic in the world we have. Here were people of all sizes and shapes in beautiful fabrics and fashions dancing unselfconsciously. All ages and genders were playing pretend, laughing and singing together. Many were barefoot. Hammocks hung everywhere (the Lost Boys enclave in Neverland matched my childhood dream), people juggled, did tricks, and danced from ribbon ropes hanging from trees. The people were real, the play was real, and the magic such outdoor play created was real.
I chose antler-type horns crafted from leather to add an animal aspect to my outer appearance, and later my daughter wanted similar, smaller ones. We didn't take them off when we got home, carrying the magic with us as we walked through our small town to join Jimmy and Gabe at the Wellsboro House for dinner. We were our own species, and I revelled in the connection shared play had given us. I'm not much for playing dolls, as my daughter will tell you. But this--this I can do.
I write, read, recreate, and raise kids in rural Pennsylvania. I teach part-time in Outdoor Recreation Leadership, Creative Writing, and Women's Studies at Mansfield University.