From falling eggs to lost sheep to creepy spiders, everyone loves a fairy tale. For those seeking ultimate escapism – and who doesn’t need that these days – the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House has a summer’s worth.
Inspired by its charming play house, the Ford House will hold its first – and soon to be annual – Summer of Fantasy, Folklore & Fairy Tales. The events, which run from July 16 through Sept. 18, will take the mythical creatures from our favorite storybooks and turn them into living, breathing exhibits.
Really, if you want your kids to read more, this is an ideal way to inspire them. Pretty much any bibliophile of worth has a character they would love to meet in real life. Going to events such as these gives children a chance to see, talk to, play with and engage with the characters otherwise bound to the page. Yes, reading is good for kids — especially those who are only used to texting, checking Facebook or watching endless hours of “16 and Pregnant.” Ugh. I’ll take Owen Meany any day.
“It’s all fairy tales, all the time,” Ann Fitzpatrick, Ford House’s Vice President of Communications, told me as we talked about this new series of events. “The festival quickly became so much bigger than we ever thought it would. So many people wanted to work with us that we now plan on making it an annual event. We have so many ideas for the future.”
So how did this idea get started? One only has to look under the roof of Josephine Ford’s kid-sized play house. There, Italian-born sculptor Corrado Parducci carved the nursery rhymes in the stucco panels. There’s Old King Cole; The Cat and the Fiddle, the Cow that Jumped over the Moon and half a dozen others.
Fitzpatrick said this spot is so popular with children and families that it was a natural jumping-off point for another event. The Ford House hosts several holiday-inspired family activities already, such as an Easter egg hunt in the spring and a massive Halloween bash in October.
But there was nothing for those long summer months – an especially critical time for children whose brains are otherwise turning to mush outside of the classroom. (OK, that’s just my kids. But I’m sure other parents are struggling as well.) The Ford events also tie into the Michigan Library Association’s summer reading program, “One World, Many Stories.”
So could you just drag your kids to a carnival, water park or theme park? Sure. But how about taking an aspiring artist to see “Fairy Tale Art: Illustrations from Children’s Books”? The exhibit, which runs July 16 through Sept. 18, features 59 original illustrations from classic fairy tales such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood. Seeing these works in person both provokes and inspires any mind, especially a young fertile one.
Or how about the child that wants to be an actor? They would love the July 23 Fairy Tale Festival. There will be music from Michigan Philharmonic and performances of “Fractured Fairy Tales” by the local Grosse Pointe Theatre company. There will be puppets and storytellers. There will be plays, crafts, story circles and murals. You could pretend you’re Alice in Wonderland and play croquet with the Queen of Hearts. Or you can try your hand at a life-size chess game in the garden. The adventures promise to be epic, as my 12-year-old niece Daria would say.
Adults can get in on the act as well. There are several seminars planned for parents throughout August. For example, I’ll be attending the Writers’ Discussion with local author and National Book Award winner Gloria Whelan. The Aug. 9 event just might be the kick in the pants I need to get my Great American Novel – or, at least a story book or two – out of my mental desk drawer.
You also could come back in August for a nighttime book reading with a fanciful fairy or a fairy house workshop. I’m in love with the workshop – Children and their adult companion (really, who is bringing whom?) will use natural materials to create their own interpretation of a fairy house. When finished, the house houses will be placed in the Ford House grounds to attract any resident fairies. Suspend all skepticism for this one – it sounds lovely.
If you cannot make these events, there are other opportunities to bond over a book, Fitzpatrick said. The Ford House will have books of fairy tales around throughout the summer – grab a tomb, find a shady spot on the grounds and share a story. That sounds like a summer memory that even the most cynical among us could enjoy.
Like all good things, even fairy-tale festivals have a price. Admission to The Fairy Tale Festival is $10 per person in advance and $ 12 at the door. Other event prices vary. But it’s less expensive than cable TV, and you don’t want your daughter to grow up like Amber or Farrah, do you?