Executive Director Kathy Fleming to Step Down
Fleming will transition to director emeritus position in 2020 to focus on capital campaign and special projects
New search underway for park’s next leader
Fairytale Town’s executive director, Kathy Fleming, will step down at the end of 2019 and transition to a director emeritus position in 2020. She has been the executive director of Sacramento’s storybook park since 2000. The Board of Directors has launched a search for the next executive director.
As director emeritus, Fleming will work with the incoming executive director to ensure a smooth transition of leadership for the nearly 60-year-old institution. Her time will then be focused on Fairytale Town’s capital campaign to support the park’s half-acre expansion as well as program development for the Story Center, one of the features of the expansion. Fleming will serve as director emeritus from January through December 2020.
“The park’s success is Kathy’s success, and her support during this critical phase of our growth exemplifies her dedication to Fairytale Town and it’s expansion. It is the Board’s intention to honor her legacy during this transition period,” said Linda Alger, president of Fairytale Town’s board of directors. “We are extremely grateful to Kathy for her leadership of Fairytale Town for the last 19 years. Thanks to her vision and commitment, Fairytale Town is a thriving community asset that welcomes more children and families than ever before into this magical oasis. The next leader will come on board during an exciting time for the organization and our community.”
“Serving as director of Fairytale Town has been a great joy and the highlight of my professional career. I want to thank the board, staff and volunteers who work hard every day to make Fairytale Town the magical place it is,” said Fleming. “As I transition to director emeritus, I’ll turn over the day-to-day operations and focus on projects that will advance the organization and promote the importance of play for the healthy development of children, families and communities.”
During her tenure, Fleming has transformed the landmark facility from a small children’s park to one of the top five attractions in the region. She has led the organization through dramatic growth with involvement from 16 board members, 30 staff members, more than 600 volunteers, and many community partners.
Some of Fleming’s achievements include:
- increasing annual attendance from 160,000 to 250,000 guests;
- growing the operating budget from $650,000 to $2 million;
- building strong partnerships with the City of Sacramento, Sacramento Public Library, and other community organizations;
- creating new signature programs, including the annual Children’s Book Festival and Winter Wonderland;
- improving the nearly 60-year-old facility with numerous capital projects, including the Mother Goose Stage, Sherwood Forest, and the Yellow Brick Road, as well as infrastructure projects such as walkways and fencing;
- opening the first playset based on a story from the African continent, Anansi’s Web;
- and, establishing outreach programs, such as the Sacramento Adventure Playground, a free after-school youth development program for ages 6 to 15.
Located in William Land Park in Sacramento, Calif., Fairytale Town opened to the public on August 29, 1959, when it was dedicated as a gift to the children of the Central Valley by the City of Sacramento, the Junior League of Sacramento and other community and business leaders. Fairytale Town remains the only literacy-based park that serves children in this region. The park received the Business Hall of Fame award at the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s Annual Dinner in February 2019 and the Regional Treasure award from the California Parks and Recreation Society’s Hall of Honor in March 2019.
Meet the Voice of Fairytale Town
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.
Meet the Puppeteer
In celebration of 60 years of Fairytale Town, we’re bringing you stories and profiles from throughout our history.
Art Grueneberger’s face may not be familiar to Fairytale Town families, but his voice may be. Art has been one of the puppeteers behind the shows in the Children’s Theater for the last 23 years. Since 1996, Art’s company, Puppet Art Theater Co., has been making children—and their parents—
giggle with his puppet shows that present classic tales with a wacky spin. In addition to producing and performing puppet shows for children, he has directed productions for adults that have been seen staged in New York City and San Francisco. In 2007, Art directed an acclaimed production of Man of La Mancha featuring life-sized puppets at UC Davis.
What sparked your interest in puppetry?
My first puppets were children’s toys that I received when I was five years old—a Cookie Monster and Ernie and Bert moving mouth puppets. I loved the puppet characters on Sesame Street and playing with those kid-sized puppets provided hours and hours of enjoyment. Just as I was growing out of Sesame Street, The Muppet Show began airing. The corny writing of Jerry Juhl, combined with some of the best television puppeteers, were right up my ten-year-old sense of humor. I performed countless puppet shows for my mom from behind the couch with my increasing collection of hand puppets.
Fast-forward to my last year of college when I decided to take a Puppetry Class thinking that it would be an easy “A”. Little did I know that the class would change the trajectory of my life. The class was taught by master puppeteer Richard Bay, an incredible puppet builder, performer, and director. Richard recognized my passion for performing and cast me in a show called A Thousand Cranes, a large-scale theater production. Performing a serious and beautiful piece of theater with puppets showed me the possibilities of puppetry beyond the silliness of The Muppets. I was hooked! Richard eventually hired me as a performer for his company, and my first professional performance of a puppet show for kids was at the Nut Tree in Vacaville the summer of 1993.
When did you start performing puppet shows at Fairytale Town? Tell us about your experience.
I went on to direct several productions for Richard Bay’s company and continued to write and tour in educational shows for Richard. After performing one of those shows at Fairytale Town, the director of the park, Annie Desalernos, asked me about building a show for the Safe and Super Halloween event in 1996. I took the challenge! My first children’s production was Frankenswine, which is loosely based on Frankenstein, only with pigs. The show was greatly influenced by the wackiness of The Muppets and the classic bits I learned while working with Richard. That was the beginning of my company, Puppet Art Theater Co. After the success of Frankenswine, I was asked to build a series of four shows for Fairytale Town’s 1997 Summer season. And we haven’t missed a year at Fairytale Town since!
What is your favorite Fairytale Town Memory?
I was premiering Tommy’s Space Adventure at Fairytale Town (probably 1997 or 1998), and in a moment when all of the special effects in the show were in play, a five-year-old boy stood up on the bench and exclaimed, “What a show!” I was filled with joy because that was exactly the response I was wanting.
See a Puppet Show at Fairytale Town!
Puppet shows are offered May through August. Check out the show schedule!
Meet Steve Antony
Five years ago, Steve Antony pursued his dream job as a children’s book author and illustrator. Since then, he’s written and illustrated 16 picture books, including his 2014 award-winning debut The Queen’s Hat, the bestselling Mr. Panda series, and Unplugged. He illustrated Tim Minchin’s When I Grow Up from his hit musical Matilda and illustrated a cover of The Famous Five, Enid Blyton’s popular series. Steve lives in Swindon, England, and is Patron to Swindon Libraries Children’s Services. Steve will read selections from the Mr. Panda series and sign books at Fairytale Town on September 29 and 30 as part of the ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival.
What was your inspiration for Mr. Panda?
The first story, Please, Mr. Panda, came to me in a most peculiar way. One lazy Sunday afternoon I was doodling pandas in bed when I heard a voice inside my head. “Would you like a doughnut?” asked the voice. I imagined this to be the voice of the deadpan Mr. Panda who was staring right at me from my sketchbook. “Give me the pink one,” replied a tiny, squeaky voice, which I imagined to be that of a cute little penguin. “No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind,” huffed Mr. Panda. This made me chuckle. But why did Mr. Panda change his mind? I continued to imagine him interacting with other animals in a similar fashion. Then it dawned on me: none of the animals said please! That’s when I knew I had a good story. Mr. Panda wanted to teach me, and the world, a lesson or two in manners.
Mr. Panda is now the star of four picture books and two board books. When you were writing and illustrating the first book, Please Mr. Panda, did you ever imagine that Mr. Panda’s adventures would expand into a series?
No, I never imagined in a million years that Mr. Panda would star in his very own series of books! I wrote Please, Mr. Panda a year after being made redundant from a call center. In fact, if I hadn’t been made redundant the Please, Mr. Panda probably wouldn’t exist. The book wasn’t even called Please, Mr. Panda to begin with. It was called Would You Like a Doughnut?
The response to the first Mr. Panda book took me by complete surprise, and I just knew Mr. Panda had more stories to tell. I also love adding more black and white animals to Mr. Panda’s expanding circle of friends. I pick only black and white animals for Mr. Panda’s world because I’m red-green color-blind, and at the start of my career I steered clear of using too much color. Now I’m more confident with using color. For example, my illustrations for Tim Minchin’s When I Grow Up are super colorful.
I’ve actually just finished the 5th Mr. Panda picture book. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of Mr. Panda because he’s such a funny character to develop. He’s grumpy-looking yet really generous. He’s big and gruff yet wears pink frilly aprons. He isn’t perfect, yet he tries his best to teach manners in his own unique (and somewhat unorthodox) way. Plus, he has the best fans. Every now and then I check the hashtag #PleaseMrPanda to see what people are posting on Instagram. One school painted a gigantic Mr. Panda in their class and took turns taking selfies next to it. Another transformed their class into Mr. Panda’s doughnut factory. I often get tagged in Mr. Panda related tweets, too.
Tell us about your role as patron of Swindon Libraries Children’s Services. What do you like best about that role?
Since my first book, The Queen’s Hat, was published, I have developed great friendships with my local librarians. I regularly hold free events in libraries across the Borough of Swindon and meet with librarians to creatively brainstorm new and imaginative ways to inspire children, families, and schools to visit their local branch. It’s a lot of fun. Lots of people can’t afford books. Schools often can’t afford new books, which is why I think the best thing about my role is that I’ve been given this amazing opportunity to share the joy of reading to children who, if not for libraries, would not have access to books. Books are so much more than just ink on paper. They are doorways into amazing worlds where just about anything is possible. This is something I always tell school pupils. You should see their faces when I tell them they hold the key to each and every door.
What was your favorite book to read as a child?
There were so many. I loved poring over picture book illustrations and finding all the hidden details. I particularly enjoyed books by Richard Scarry, but the books I borrowed most from the library were actually the Draw 50 books by Lee J. Ames and Ed Emberley’s “How to Draw” books. To be honest, I actually struggled with reading non-picture books, but I found that comics and graphic novels helped bridge the gap.
Doughnuts are a recurring theme and visual in the Mr. Panda series. Do you like doughnuts, and what’s your favorite?
Unlike Mr. Panda, I do like doughnuts. My favorite is salted caramel. I am cutting down because I’ve probably eaten far too many since the publication of Please, Mr. Panda, although I did eat one yesterday.
ADA Parking Upgrades to Temporarily Impact Traffic and Parking
***UPDATE: 15th Avenue at Land Park Drive will be open the weekend of June 23 & 24.
Traffic and parking at Fairytale Town will be impacted on weekdays from June 4 – 29 due to construction. The City of Sacramento will be upgrading existing on-street disabled parking on 15th Avenue at Land Park Drive near Fairytale Town to meet current ADA standards.
Impacts: Impacts to the traveling public includes temporary road closures and access to parking. Visitors are asked to watch for detour signs to access parking. Road closures and detours include:
- 15th Avenue at Land Park Drive will be closed to traffic on weekdays. It will be open on weekends.***
- Northbound traffic on Land Park Drive to detour right onto 14th Ave.
- Southbound traffic on Land Park Drive to detour left onto 14th Ave.
- Additional detour: Southbound traffic on Land Park Drive to detour left onto Sutterville Road, turn left on Freeport Blvd., left on 14th Avenue (stay on 14th Avenue), left onto 18th Street.
- Entrance to Parking thru 18th Street and 15th Avenue – watch for detour signs.
Fairytale Town will be open daily during construction!
Open 9 AM – 4 PM
If you are in the park by 4 PM, you may stay and play until 5 PM.
Local “Blue Star Museums” Offer Free Admission to Military Personnel and their Families this Summer
Fairytale Town is one of the many Sacramento area museums participating in this year’s Blue Star Museums program, a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums across America.
Blue Star Museums offers free admission to all active duty military personnel and their families starting the Saturday May 18 and continuing through Labor Day September 2, 2019.
In addition to Fairytale Town, several local museums are participating in Blue Star Museums include the following: Aerospace Museum of California, California Automobile Museum, California Museum, Crocker Art Museum, Powerhouse Science Center, and the Sacramento History Museum. Visit the Blue Star Museums website to see what museums near you are participating.
This year’s participating Blue Star Museums represent not just fine arts museums, but also science museums, history museums, zoos, nature centers and children’s museums. The free admission program is available to any bearer of a Geneva Convention common access card (CAC), a DD Form 1173 ID card, or a DD Form 1173-1 ID card, which includes active duty military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard), National Guard and Reserve members and up to five immediate family members.
Before planning a visit, please contact the individual museums for hours of operation and note some are normally closed on Mondays and in observance of holidays such as Memorial Day and Labor Day. For more information or a complete list of participating Blue Star museums, please visit the Blue Star Museums website. For more information about upcoming activities offered by Sacramento area museums, visit the user-friendly website at www.SacMuseums.org.
Meet “Finding Winnie” Author Lindsay Mattick
Do you know the true story of Winnie-the-Pooh? Long before Winnie and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood came to life in A.A. Milne’s classic stories, Winnie was a real bear who journeyed from Winnipeg to London with a young soldier named Harry Colebourn. Author Lindsay Mattick—the great-grandaughter of Harry Colebourn—tells the full tale in the New York Times bestselling and Caldecott award winning children’s book, Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear. Lindsay will read and sign copies of her book at Fairytale Town on September 16 and 17 at the ScholarShare Children’s Book Festival.
What was your inspiration for writing Finding Winnie?
This story has inspired me ever since I was a kid. The idea that a small gesture on the part of my great-grandfather would go on to have such a huge ripple effect is powerful. I always imagined telling my own child this story one day and when I found out I was pregnant with my son Cole, that was the motivation I needed.
What did you enjoy most about writing Finding Winnie?
I loved the process of watching the text come to life through my illustrator’s (Sophie Blackall) incredible illustrations. It was a very personal and moving journey to watch the story come to life in such a powerful way.
Winnie-the-Pooh is beloved by children and adults the world over. For you, though, Winnie is part of your family history. What was it like growing up knowing about the real Winnie?
I have been proudly sharing this remarkable story since I can remember and have always felt grateful to have it as part of our family history. I have delighted in the fact that one of the world’s most beloved fictional stories came about in small part, because of a true story—a love story—between my veterinarian great-grandfather and his pet bear.
What was your favorite book to read as a child?
I loved many books but a few standouts would be The Giving Tree, The Velveteen Rabbit, and The Little Mermaid.
We’re Creating a New Playset
Fairytale Town has selected artist Garr Ugalde to design, create and install a new interactive playset!
Named Anansi’s Web, the playset represents the West African folktales of Anansi the spider. Anansi is the keeper of all stories and wisdom. He’s also a trickster who obtains his goals through various ruses. The new set will feature three climbing webs and four animal sculptures, in addition to one of Anansi himself.
Fairytale Town has seen many new buildings and additions over the years—Mr. McGregor’s Garden opened in 1999, the Mother Goose Stage made its debut in 2005, the Yellow Brick Road was completed in 2012 and more—but, Anansi’s Web will be the first brand new play structure in 20 years. The most recent addition was Jack and the Beanstalk, which opened in 1997.
Garr Ugalde is an accomplished Sacramento sculptor who has exhibited widely in Sacramento and across the country. He also has completed several public commissions throughout the Sacramento region. His most recent public installation is a series of three sculptures called “Agora’s Light,” which was installed in December 2016 at American River College.
Work will begin in the artist’s studio this summer, preparation on-site at Fairytale Town begins this November, and the playset will be installed and ready for play by August 2018.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, we were able to request proposals from professional artists to create the playset. Six artists responded to a call for qualifications, three were selected to create scale models, and Ugalde’s proposal was selected by a panel of seven board and community members for its playability and artistry.
The new playset will be installed between the Tipi playset and the Mary’s Little Lamb exhibit, replacing a portion of the waterway that winds through the park. Repurposing a portion of the waterway creates additional space for a new play area and allows Fairytale Town to conserve water.
All of us here are committed to keeping the historical integrity of the park, but we also know we must be relevant to the present and sustainable in the future. While we have had ample rain this year, the years of drought reinforces how important it is to conserve water. We believe that repurposing this portion of the waterway for a new playset will beautify the facility, provide innovative and challenging activities for children in our community, and enhance the Fairytale Town experience for all our guests.
It is not too late to support this project!
Donations towards the new playset will be matched by the grant from the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission.
Fund Our Friendly Fowl on the Big Day of Giving
Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to Fairytale Town, of course!
Fairytale Town is home to 28 rare or miniature breed animals—including the Little Red Hen and friends. Our chicken exhibit next to Farmer Brown’s Barn shelters our five feathered friends, where they roost and lay eggs. Weather and time have deteriorated the coop and it needs to be replaced.
Young children are fascinated by animals, so it is no surprise that our animal exhibits and activities are popular attractions. Our barnyard brood is often a child’s first introduction to the world of animals. The proposed new coop would offer better viewing of the habits and life cycle of chickens—and help children learn the importance of animals in our daily lives.
Fairytale Town is once again participating in the Big Day of Giving!
The Big Day of Giving is the the Sacramento Region’s 24-hour online giving challenge on Thursday, May 4. Donations we receive from the day will go to rebuild the chicken coop. We’ve received generous matching funds of $9,400! With your support, we can complete the project. If we exceed our goal, the additional money will go towards rebuilding the home of Peter Rabbit and his sisters. The combined goal for both projects is $24,000
It is easy to participate in the Big Day of Giving. On May 4, simply visit bigdayofgiving.org and select the nonprofit(s) you want to support.
As the story goes, the Little Red Hen asks for help from her barnyard friends. We hope you will help by donating to Fairytale Town and the nonprofit(s) you care about on May 4 and make a difference in our community. Thanks to support from our friends and donors, we can enhance our exhibits and education programs for children and families in our region.
Join us at the park on May 4!
We hope you are able to join us at the park on May 4! We’ve planned a fun day celebrating our chicken family and Star Wars Day with story time, visits from Star Wars characters, prizes, and more! And with an online donation of $25 or more, you will receive FREE admission for two guests on May 4, 2017. Just show your Big Day of Giving donation receipt to our Box Office staff for complimentary admission.
We Need Your Help to Build a New Playset
Entering a place called Fairytale Town just has to be a magical experience. We work hard to make sure that once children and families cross under the Humpty Dumpty gate, they enter an enchanted realm where stories come to life and children can play to their heart’s content. These days, after hearing the initial “Oohs!” and “Ahhs!” upon entering the park, the next comment we often hear is, “What is that supposed to be?” when children see the drought-stricken waterways throughout the park. One frequent guest hit the nail on the head when she said, “Fairytale Town has done such a great job of upgrading and refreshing the grounds and playsets. It’s a shame the moats are such an eyesore.”
The Board and Staff of Fairytale Town are committed to keeping the historical integrity of our storybook park. We can easily justify maintaining and improving the moat around King Arthur’s Castle and the waterways close to the Pirate Ship and the Water Wheel. But, after many years of drought, it has become difficult to rationalize the use of water as a decorative element and costly to fill the non-thematic waterways in the park. For these reasons, we began to look at ways to repurpose the non-thematic waterways in the park.
Thanks to a grant from Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, we are in the process of creating a new playset! The grant allows Fairytale Town to request proposals from artists and arts organizations to create a new playset to replace the waterway between the Tipi playset and the Mary’s Little Lamb exhibit. Like all the structures at Fairytale Town, the new playset will be story-based, interactive, and powered by the imagination rather than electricity.
The grant requires a one-to-one match, and we need your help to raise the $100,000 match! We invite you to join us in making this exciting and collaborative project come to life.
While all of us at Fairytale Town are committed to keeping the historical integrity of the park, we also recognize that we must ensure the facility remains relevant to the present and sustainable in the future.
We hope our community will support of this new project by providing donations to match our grant! Make a contribution online, or please contact Kathy Fleming at (916) 808-7060.