Gnomes and fairies of all ages attended the Fun at the Park: Gnome and Fairy Festival on February 23rd at Sholom Park. The park was transformed into an enchanted forest with Fairy Tale Lane, Gnome Street, Whimsical World and a seek-n-find hunt for magical fairy doors.
Hundreds of families were treated to fairy-tale themed activities including a storytelling event with Enchanted Tales with a Fairy Godmother and Find Your Fairy Name.
Citrus County resident Vivien Worster, who has previously visited Sholom Park, was pleasantly surprised at the park’s transformation. Worster and her partner Austin Levack, both wearing gnome hats, saw the event post on Facebook and immediately knew they had to attend.
“It’s very mellow and serene. It’s whimsical,” Worster said. “We’re surprised so many people knew about it and showed up, so we’re really happy.”
Ocala resident Madisyn Willis, 7, attended the festival with her parents and 2-year-old sister, Olivia. They have visited Sholom Park many times before, most recently when Madisyn’s little sister was born.
“We haven’t been to a festival like this here before. I like that there’s unicorns and there’s so many fun things to do,” Willis said while dressed in fairy wings and a colorful tulle skirt. “And there’s a dragon!”
A bright green dragon was indeed traversing the grounds, stopping for friendly pats and interactions. Festival goers wound through garden paths, exploring the landscape and lounged on the extensive lawn area of the park while watching the entertainment.
Families also lined up to receive free books and reading materials donated by The Early Learning Coalition of Marion County(ELCMC). The family-friendly event also featured live music by Mystic Celts and Irish step dancing by the Irish Echoes.
Sholom Park, a privately funded meditation sanctuary and native plant preserve, opened in 2004 and is often the scene of weddings and special events. According to its website, “Sholom Park seeks to become a model of land stewardship and the preservation of open space for education and public enjoyment.”
Christina Shearer, event planner for Sholom Park, estimated that 5,000 people attended the event. Shearer said that although this was not a fundraising event, Sholom Park and the Horticultural Arts and Parks Institute Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and donations were accepted for the upkeep of the park.
“Hosting interactive, educational, imaginative, family-friendly fun events is our way of introducing the beauty and mission of Sholom Park to people that may have never visited otherwise,” Shearer said.
The ELCMC gave away 600 fairy wings and gnome hats, plus take-home crafts and children’s books. Mike Scott Plumbing had a bubble mine for kids to dig in to find a magical keepsake. In addition, they provided 1500 bottles of free water to park guests. Ocala Rocks supplied 600 garden rocks for guests to paint their own magical rock and hide it for others to find and post on Ocala Rocks Facebook page. Other event sponsors included Advanced Disposal and DV Photography.