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Fairy Fest creates magical day on The Commons

Kelby+Woodside%2C+owner+of+Snailboat+Studio%2C+and+Ithaca+College+sophomore+Katie+Oliver+pose+with+the+variety+of+crochet+animals+that+were+available+for+purchase+at+this+year%E2%80%99s+Fairy+Fest+on+The+Commons.
Mari Kodama
Kelby Woodside, owner of Snailboat Studio, and Ithaca College sophomore Katie Oliver pose with the variety of crochet animals that were available for purchase at this year’s Fairy Fest on The Commons.

Despite the gloomy weather, over 150 people showed up March 23 to participate in Ithaca’s third annual Fairy Fest, which was held on The Commons.

Over 30 small restaurants and businesses opened their doors to adults and children alike for the event, inviting families inside for activities such as face painting, wand making and fairy garden planting. Participants were encouraged to dress up as fairy, elf or woodland creatures.

Participating businesses were also decorated for the event, many sporting multicolored decorations alongside their glittery craft stands or displays of fairy-themed products like cupcakes and craft kits. Many employees were also dressed from head to toe in their own fairy outfits, complete with extravagant makeup and wings.

Fairy Fest was organized by Greta Perl, the owner of toy store Alphabet Soup, who said the event would not have been possible without the help of other small business owners.

“I just walked around and walked in the door, because that’s the beauty of small businesses, the owner is usually right there and you can say hi and make a plan,” Perl said. “This whole thing is just the power of people saying yes.”

Perl said she was inspired to hold the first Fairy Fest back in Spring 2022, when the art supplies brand Faber-Castell’s Creativity for Kids line sent her store a flower crownmaking sample kit and asked them to hold a day of flower crown-making to promote the product.

“I wasn’t sure if I could get a lot of people in, just by myself as one business, but I thought maybe if I checked some of the other businesses and saw if they wanted to do something on the same day, we could make a whole day of it,” Perl said.

As the organizer of the event, Perl joined participants in Alphabet Soup this year to help them make flower crowns and bracelets.

“I’ve been seeing people of all ages have fun with this,” Perl said. “There was this old grandpa who came in earlier and he was making one for his bald head. It was so cute.”

Many of the people hosting activities for the event expressed their support for a day focused on activities for children.

One of these people was Marina Billott, who hosted face painting and sold a variety of handmade jewelry and headbands in Center Ithaca in association with 15 Steps, a jewelry, clothing and craft store. She said the event was a wonderful way to help children participate in hands-on activities.

“It’s not just fun, it’s also something where children can learn something new,” Billott said. “You can see a lot of different activities and other things that will help them develop.”

Karim Yaport, who works at Mockingbird Paperie, shared a similar sentiment about hosting events for younger children and families in and around Ithaca. Yaport hosted a doll-making event where people of all ages were invited to make a fairy doll out of paper and glitter.

“We’ve had roughly 30 families so far that stopped by to decorate some fairies and put them on a stick and go on their merry way,” Yaport said. “The kids get to color the little fairies and put some glitter on them, so it’s really a fun, quick activity for them.”

Yaport said she was glad to be part of an activity that gave families a chance to have fun together without worrying about the cost, and hopes there are more events like it in the future.

“I think a lot more of this should happen,” Yaport said. “We do it a lot in Ithaca, and it really brings the community together. It’s just a fun activity that families can do together for free or low cost, depending on which places you’re going to.”

Jessie Williams, an employee at Autumn Leaves Books, also said that while she was glad so many people showed up for the business’s Mad Lib story time and mushroom house-making event, she wishes there were more events for children happening in Ithaca.

“I think this is a very friendly community toward children in general, but I certainly don’t think having more events would be an issue,” Williams said. “I think we should have as many as possible, especially because you get so many different types of people from different backgrounds, and then a fair amount of people from out of town.”

Though it was mostly targeted toward children, the event was able to attract people of all ages, including students and young adults.

Matt Severson and Jamie Ferro were two participants who attended the event decked out in full fairy gear that they got from their live action role-playing hobby, including colorful flower crowns and flowing capes. Severson said that to them, the main draw of Fairy Fest was the people.

“The kind of people who are excited to do things like this and dress up and come out are just nice to be around,” Severson said.

Deirdre Kurzweil, the owner of Sunny Days of Ithaca, was also pleased with the event’s high turnout. Kurzweil’s business hosted an all-day buttonmaking event and was the official distributor of the first ever Fairy Fest t-shirts.

“At Sunny Days, you can come in and make a free button every day, and for festivals and special occasions, we just customize it to that,” Kurzweil said. “We’re also printing the first ever Fairy Fest t-shirts. We’re doing it on demand, so you can pick your shirt and the costs and everything upstairs and then we print it for you.”

Kurzweil said she admires the Ithaca community’s ability to come together and support local events even when faced with gloomy, stormy weather.

“I’m a little bit shocked but also so happy,” Kurzweil said. “It’s exactly because of this that events like these exist.”

For future Fairy Fests, Perl said she would like to look into opportunities for local high school and college organizations to participate in the event as well.

“Perhaps there are some groups or clubs or service organizations within each school that might like to partner with Fairy Fest to either help volunteer, run their own table or activity, or do some kind of performance such as music, theater or dance,” Perl said via.

No matter what, Perl said she would definitely like to continue holding Fairy Fest every year for the foreseeable future.

“I think it does have room to grow, and I want to help it grow while still keeping the focus on small businesses and local organizations so it keeps that real homemade Ithaca feel,” Perl said via email.

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