GRAFTON, Vt. — A toadstool roof, birch bark door and pine cone light fixtures may not work on a human house, but for woodland fairies, it’s prime real estate.
The Fairy House Festival is back Sept. 25 and 26, the 12th such event hosted by the Nature Museum.
The idea for this annual fundraiser came from then executive director, Lillian Willis, who was familiar with Tracy Kane’s books about fairies and the fairy homes on Monhegan Island in Maine.
“It was an instant hit and has grown ever since,” said the museum’s board president, Laurie Danforth.
The festival brought 250 visitors that first year — it now attracts 1,200 people from all over New England.
Picture what Danforth describes as “an enchanting world of the small, where an acorn becomes a teapot, a shell becomes a hot tub, and a milkweed pod transforms into a cradle,” and you’ve got the idea.
Individuals and families (including many children) along with staff and board members volunteer to build fairy houses and environments over days, weeks and months, collecting natural bits and pieces fairy including twigs, pebbles, shells and acorns.
These exhibits, built by volunteers, take many forms: fairy schools, fairy libraries, fairy pirate ships and fairy hot air balloons from the beach, woods, meadows and streams, to create all the elements of a spontaneously-arising village where sprites, elves and fairies of the forest dwell.
A woodland trail that leads through the village is dotted with more than 40 of these structures in the fields and woods behind the museum. The event serves as an opportunity for young people and adults to interact directly with the environment, expressing their creativity while fostering a deeper relationship with nature.
The Nature Museum, a nonprofit that opened its doors in 1989, is a regional resource for nature, science and environmental education in the Vermont and New Hampshire communities of the Connecticut River Valley. The museum provides information and experiences, according to its website, “which engage and enlighten our audiences and inspire stewardship of the natural world.”
The museum’s collections focus on the natural history of northern New England, with exhibits on local flora, fauna and geology; and host all-ages nature, science and environmental programs through its Nature in the Schools and Nature in the Community programs. Nature in the Community brings museum educators’ expertise in science and the natural world for everyone, from pre-schoolers to adults.
In recent years, the Museum's Nature in the Schools program has expanded to include not only tours for school groups and hour-long nature programs, but also long-term naturalist residencies and in-depth collaborations with teachers and administrators. The Nature Museum also has a long history of offering programs for homeschoolers.
The Museum is surrounded by a garden filled with native plants, a frog pond, and picnic tables. Behind the Museum are the trails of the Village Park, a wooded trail system where visitors can amble through the forest.
Programs and events are designed to inspire people to safeguard our region's resources for a sustainable future.
Funds raised from the festival support the museum’s natural science programs in schools and libraries, wilderness days for tweens, wild foods workshops, summer camps for kids, mushroom talks, birding walks and more.
In addition to a tour of the fairy village there are also food vendors, live music, and a “bubble beach.”
The gardens become a fairy construction zone where visitors can use already-collected natural materials to put together their own fairy structure among the flowers and by the frog pond.
An arts and crafts tent for children will contain material to create fairy ear wings, masks, wands, crowns, dragon medallions and more.
Welcoming visitors to the festival is the Fairy Queen (played by Danforth), decked in glittering wings of purple and gold, Young visitors love the moment when the Fairy Queen sprinkles fairy dust on their hand, welcoming them to step into a magical realm.
The Nature Museum is also looking for volunteers to build fairy houses and help at the festival, and donors to support the event; register online.
The 12th Annual Fairy House Festival will be held Saturday, Sept. 25 and Sunday, Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at The Nature Museum, 186 Townshend Road, Grafton, Vt. Tickets can be purchased online at nature-museum.org/fairy-house-festival
To keep the size manageable this year, only a limited number of tickets are available at the front gate on the weekend of the festival, so plan to purchase your tickets online. Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $5 for children 2 and up (under 2 are free). This event takes place rain or shine.