The Magic Returns – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Children’s Festival returns in full July 9-11 after rolling back 2 years for COVID

Anne Billeter, queen of this year’s Children’s Festival, reads a children’s book from the collection of her library in Medford. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

Andy Atkinson/Mail Tribune Anne Billeter, queen of this year’s Children’s Festival, reads a children’s book in her personal library in Medford. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

After a partial two-year hiatus from its beloved 50-year reading celebration, the Children’s Festival will return to the Britt Festival grounds in Jacksonville this summer.

Dedicated volunteers are mobilizing for a full return after two years of restricted events during the pandemic.

“X Marks the Spot,” a pirate-themed shindig full of crafts, stories, and entertainment, is slated for July 9-11.

First held in 1967 as a small storytelling program called “A Child’s Fun ‘n Fantasy Afternoon”, it attracted 500 children over two days. More than five decades later, the event has evolved, offering up to three dozen crafts, story times, entertainment and other kid-friendly activities over a three-day period.

Crafting stations run the gamut, from leather stamping, gold panning, and dyeing to beading, painting, and a host of science offerings. Storytelling stations are scattered throughout the festival in addition to a full range of entertainment on the Britt Festival stage.

While 500 attendees in 1967 were deemed “huge”, organizers have seen 10,000 in recent years.

Storytelling Guild president Lara Knackstedt said the three-day extravaganza has become such a staple for local families over the summer that guild members have done their best to provide activities for smaller scale when the larger event could not take place.

Last year, some 600 books were distributed to children at Talent, White City and Jacksonville libraries.

“We held smaller festivals in the three different libraries. We handed out books and had story, dance and craft time. It was just on a much smaller scale,” Knackstedt said.

“We are thrilled to finally be back at our festival on the hill in all its glory. It’s really exciting for the families who have been there, and it’s really hard to explain how wonderful it all is for someone who has never experienced it before.

Almost more exciting than the crafts and fun, Knackstedt said, are the iconic dragon mascots Rosabelle and Pebbles, who are “super excited to see all the kids again.”

The mascots are known to encourage festival goers to recycle and pick up trash. Knackstedt said it’s not uncommon for children to bring trash from home or even pick up blades of grass to throw away – just for the chance to “talk” to one of the dragons.

“They’re the main act, for sure. The kids love them so much,” she added.

Another fun aspect of the festival is that children have the opportunity to be dubbed prince, princess, knight, or any other title they can think of.

The recently crowned queen of this year’s festival is Anne Billeter, a longtime Storytelling Guild member and former Jackson County Librarian, who will preside over this year’s event. Billeter said she was delighted to see thousands of happy faces converging on the sloping hills to laugh.

Billeter said the festival is a much-loved tradition, with many Rogue Valley families having attended as children, performing on stage or returning as volunteers to help organize the event. Festival jargon such as “trash dragons” and “queen” might sound silly to those who haven’t yet attended, she said, but returning guests welcome the whimsy.

“I remember the very first time I heard there was a queen. I was at a management meeting at the library. Someone came in and said, ‘Sorry, I’m late; I was at the queen’s picnic. He said, ‘So and so is the queen now.’ And we were completely baffled. Now I’m totally aware because I’ve been a member for years and it’s a real honor,” she said.

“Some of the kids want to go everywhere and do everything, and some of them will fall in love with just one activity when there are dozens to choose from. I’ve always thought that one of the real ironies, when I was taking my own son to the festival, was that he wanted to spend all his time doing carpentry. He could have done it at home, but we had never thought of that before,” she said. .

“Children can do and try so many things they never had to do before. When people want to know what was my best memory from the festival, it was the year my son was so excited to go carpentry because he wanted to make a bed for his panda.

“At the end of the evening – and it was one of those lovely summer evenings we have – as everyone came down the steps and back to the parking lot… my son was holding the panda bed in his hands, and he looked at me and said, ‘I know what I’m going to win next year.’

“That’s what it’s all about,” she said.

This year’s festival will run from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, July 9 and 10, and from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, July 11.

Admission is $3 per person, per day. To help lower admission fees, which have not changed in over a decade, people are invited to donate to https://bit.ly/3I8lIfS.

For more information, see storytellingguild.org/

Contact freelance writer Buffy Pollock at [email protected]