By Jess Gaul
A stone path leads to a small cottage dusted in purple, near a quiet pond at River Park North in Greenville, North Carolina.
Little girls and boys wearing sparkly fairy wings gathered sticks and leaves in a wooded area speckled with sunlight.
As visitors of the park hiked, fished and kayaked, several dozen children made preparations for the magical visitors—no smartphones, iPads or any other screens in sight.
At the third annual Fairy House Festival on Saturday, Feb. 24,—which had originally been scheduled to include a campfire and hot chocolate—the weather was so warm that most children wore short sleeves and shorts.
“We definitely took advantage of the time of year,” said park attendant Caethe Vance.
Sitting on round stumps, children listened to park attendant Andrew Wimsatt read “Fairy Houses” by Tracy Kane.
Just as the main character of the book sees a beautiful monarch butterfly in the forest, a toddler, wearing monarch fairy wings, tumbled forward.
The other kids were not distracted. They were captivated—by the story, by the sunlight and by the possibility that fairies might move into the homes built for them.
At a drawing station, a blonde girl and her mother made textured designs on construction paper using rocks and crayons.
“It’s kind of just a cute way of getting kids into nature as we move into these warmer months of the year,” said Wimsatt. “It’s like the awakening of the park for spring.”
Each fairy house was uniquely designed, from towering teepee structures to tiny bungalows. Most houses leaned against trees as an effort to shelter their winged inhabitants.
5-year-old Beni Florero pieced together his fairy house of sticks and shells all on his own. Despite his accomplishment, his shyness prevented him from posing for a photo.
“I saw the posting on Facebook, and we’re always looking for stuff to do in Greenville,” Melissa Bump, Beni’s mother, said. “It sounded fun and the weather’s been good.”
The impact of the outdoors
Vance, one of the organizers of the event, said that getting kids to do things like creating fairy houses will help to continue the positive trend of a growing interest in outdoor activities.
“We want tomorrow’s children to get outside today, so they can encourage everyone around them,” said Vance.
Vance said that unsupervised nature play allows kids to get in touch with natural elements on their own.
Detail is everything
Parents made suggestions about which stick to use, how tall the house should be or if leaves will make a nice decoration.
7-year-old Raye Wade sprinkled her fairy house creation with green chalk as a finishing touch. Her mother and grandmother help her add pine cones for a fireplace and trees.
“It’s always fun to get out and do something outside—and it’s a beautiful day,” Raye’s mother, Liz Wade, said. “Fairy houses seemed like a really fun idea for her. She’s very creative so I think she’d like something like this.”
Does the colorful chalk dust attract potential fairy tenants?
“I don’t know,” replied the 7-year-old.
“She’s very practical,” Liz said with a laugh.
Wimsatt said learning how plants and animals interact in nature is valuable, and that not all learning can take place indoors.
“I think it’s important for kids to enjoy (nature) versus always just sitting in front of a computer, because not everything is going to be found there,” Wimsatt said. “You have to experience things.”
Park attendant Wimsatt confirmed the presence of magic at the park.
“Of course I believe in fairies!” he said.
Rumor has it that fairies moved into the houses during sunset on Saturday evening.
Edited by Liz Chen