Randy Granger

Randy Granger
In the Chihuahuan Desert near the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chicago Tribune write up.



All's fairy
Festival brings the sprites out of hiding and reveals their secrets (who knew they loved pickles?)

By William Hageman

Chicago Tribune reporter

August 17, 2008

On a beautiful summer weekend, under a canopy of oak trees at Vasa Park in South Elgin, the fairy people gathered.

Hundreds of them, many of them winged, some wearing pointy ears, others with curly-toed footwear.

Welcome to the World of Faeries Festival 2008.

"We tell people, it's a fantasy festival, so come in your Renaissance or fantasy gear," said Dave Yaeger of Crystal Lake, who with his wife, Gloria, puts the annual event together. "It's not a must, but I'd say 15 or 20 percent come dressed."

The Yaegers were inspired by a Pennsylvania event, the Fairie Festival, which has been celebrating all things fairy for two decades. The Yaegers' business, The World of Faeries (theworldoffaeries.com), specializes in fairy statues and Celtic jewelry, and they thought that a local festival would enable them and other vendors to reach a new audience. The first one was in 2005, and it has grown steadily in size and scope.

"We get a little of everything," Gloria says. "Some [visitors] are just curious. They don't know what this is all about. I tell them it's a little like a Ren [Renaissance] fair. But just a little. Ren fairs don't have people dressed in costume like fairies."

And how many Renaissance fairs have a pickle guy? Dressed as a pirate, no less.

A.K.A. John Folan of Chicago, he set up his barrel at the far end of the park and hawked his crunchy green wares to all within earshot.

"Icy cold, fresh, delicious, nutritious ... a bill a dill!"

"How about a pity sale? I'm a grown man, for Pete's sake."

And "There's no breath like pickle breath!"

Folan said he started dealing pickles back in college some 20 years ago.

"It helped get me through school. You do a big fair, you could make $500 in a weekend. That's a lot of pickles."

He left the pickle biz a little over 10 years ago but came out of retirement for the weekend. "My wife is the artistic director—or something—with the fair, and she shanghaied me."

The pickle-pushing pirate was just one of the fest's interesting cultural overlaps. There was Mother Goose, standing next to another pirate, not far from a balloon man in a leprechaun get-up. And flitting about the grounds were visitors, especially young visitors, in all their fairy goodness.

Paula Hutson of Crystal Lake was soaking it all up with daughters Emma, 6, and Audrey, 4, and friend Leslie DeWitt of Carpentersville, and her daughter, Stephanie, 3.

"I said, 'You guys want to dress up?' And they were down in the basement getting their stuff," said Hutson, holding two half-eaten pickles that her daughters had temporarily abandoned.

The girls—heavily into pink girly-girly outfits, with wings, of course—were busy interacting with some of the 30 or so entertainers sprinkled around the grounds. At the gate, each kid got a sheet listing various activities (make a craft, tell a joke, etc.); as they accomplished each task, it was marked off. A sort of scavenger hunt.

That hunt eventually took the kids to the throne of Queen Belladonna of the Unseelie fairies, enchanting in her blue and purple wings and seated amid pillows and flowers under a Sports Authority canopy.

"They come to bow or curtsy to a queen of the fairy court," she explained, handing a half-eaten pickle to her handmaiden as a group of children approached.

In addition to some 30 vendors—offering coat-of-arms T-shirts, body art and crystals as well as soy candles and jewelry—the fest offered two full days of entertainment.

There was the unusual, like the Swords of Valor, where performers flailed away at each other with swords, a giant mallet and shields as the crowd offered encouragement ("Kill! Kill! Kill!" they suggested). Just as entertaining was the music.

"This is my first fairy fest. I didn't really know how to dress," said musician Randy Granger, who performed on the Native American flute and hang drum both days. "I sort of Googled 'male fairies' and got all kinds of hits."

Pause. Laugh.

"From what I could tell, it's much like a Renaissance or medieval festival. And it smells good —soaps and patchouli."

His performance on the hang drum, a Swiss instrument that sounds like a steel drum, added an other-worldly sound and atmosphere to the weekend. But that's what these events are all about.

"I think the common thing about fairy festivals is an honoring of the spirit," said Samantha Stephenson, half of the duo Gypsy Nomads, who also performed. "I grew up in England, and the fairy thing is very British. It's the child's spirit we all have, and it comes out in these festivals. There's a big emphasis on music and playfulness."

And pickles.


Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

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