In celebration of 60 years of Fairytale Town, we’re bringing you stories and profiles from throughout our history.
After her daughters were born, Francie Dillon realized a conventional office job was not her calling, and instead decided to pursue a career in educating children through music and storytelling. During her journey, she found herself with the opportunity to help Fairytale Town create songs and stories for our Magic Storyboxes. With Francie’s story telling voice and lively children’s music being heard around the whole park for everyone to enjoy, she earned herself the title of “The Voice of Fairytale Town”.
What sparked your interest in writing music and performing for children?
The interest to write music and perform for young children was born from a beautiful cluster of circumstances that now seem magical and at the same time, almost comical. I could not have seen this career path coming, and yet, I can’t imagine what life would have been without it.
At the time of my first daughter’s birth, I had been working with a Los Angeles based advertisement agency. I remember telling Kenzie when she was less than 24hours old, “Dad’s not going to like this, but I can’t go back to that job!” At that moment my world changed. Somehow, I was going to find a way to be the mom I needed to be and still earn an income.
Almost two years after the birth of my second daughter, Lindsey, I started my business Jazzbabies, teaching music appreciation in preschool settings. With a background in music and marketing, I started writing little kid’s songs that I thought would be fun to record. Also, around that time, one of my Jazzbabies parents asked what I would charge to perform at the Arden Fair Kids Club. I had no idea those kinds of jobs were out there, so the best answer I could muster up at the time was, “It depends on the details of the job.” Shortly after that, I started performing as a street artist at the Downtown Thursday Night Market. The combination of all these elements led to me to create The Toy Box CD, with my award-winning musician/producer brother, Christopher Hedge. That CD, along with performances at Fairytale Town and the many other moments of opportunities that presented themselves, launched my career as a children’s performing artist.
How did you first get involved at Fairytale Town? Tell us about your experience.
I was first involved with Fairytale Town as a parent with two very young children. It was the place to go and breathe while our kids could safely explore and play! But as an entertainer, I’ll never forget my first time performing in the Children’s Theater. I don’t recall who extended the invitation, but I remember having a 30-minute set to sing some songs and tell a few stories. I had no real direct experience with this kind of performance, but I was excited!
Thinking back on that first performance, I remember blowing through the songs and stories in 15 minutes. I was so nervous! The audience was so sweet, the applause kind, and all I knew when I left was that I wanted to do more of that! And since that first performance, I have been able to build a performance career that landed me the professional title I’m most proud of, “The Voice of Fairytale Town.”
What is your favorite Fairytale Town Memory?
My most favorite memory of Fairytale Town was being able to spend an evening with my daughters in the park after hours as I tried to find a voice for each of the playsets. I was given the task of writing all the songs and stories for the Magic Storyboxes, and I wanted to make sure that I captured the essence of each of the many characters. As I sat in front of Mother Goose, asking what she might want to say to the thousands of children that would be sliding down her apron, all I could hear were the girls screaming and laughing as they blasted through the park. The freedom to be in the park with the girls after hours was terrific, and I found myself filled with every kind of emotion. Creating the stories and songs for the many playsets that would challenge the imagination of thousands of children and create memories for so many families was a privilege and honor. That evening, the girls and I measured the Crooked Mile, crawled through the Cheese, slew dragons in Sherwood Forest, and— little by little— found a voice for the playsets.