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Record crowd at fifth annual Fairy House Festival

Saturday’s sunny weather helped draw a record crowd to the fifth annual Fairy House Festival at Latta Plantation Nature Center in Huntersville.

Held in partnership with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation department, the free festival drew nearly 2,000 kids and adults dressed as fairies and gnomes by 1 p.m., center manager Stephen Hutchinson said.

“The most we’ve had was about 1,700 (people) two years ago,” he said, noting the final attendance number would be higher when the festival closed at 4 p.m.

Featuring crafts, face painting, story-telling and pony rides among other activities, the festival is held the weekend before Valentine’s Day every year. Hutchinson said people appreciate an activity that isn’t all about couples.

“It’s a great event for families to come out and enjoy nature at a time when people don’t really come out to enjoy parks and preserves,” Hutchinson said.

New events to this year’s festival included readings by author Tracy Kane, who writes books about fairy houses, the chance to build fairy boats to float on Mountain Island Lake and Gnome Geocaching, where attendees used GPS to find four hidden gnomes around the festival.

So what exactly is a fairy house?

“It’s a small structure about the size of a shoebox, made of all-natural materials, meant to be homes for fairies and gnomes,” Hutchinson said. Families could use their imaginations to build houses off the preserve’s Audubon Trail using nothing living – like leaves pulled from trees – man-made or artificial.

“Some of our most enthusiastic fairy house builders are dads,” Hutchinson said.

Michael Agrillo, of Huntersville, was one of those dads, helping his daughter Mia, 5, and son Vincent, 6, complete the landscaping around their fairy and gnome homes.

Mom April Agrillo said this was the first time their family had attended the event and they’d likely come again. “We had a nice walk in the woods. This is the fun part for the dads,” she said.

Mia Agrillo said her favorite part of the day was building the fairy house and getting sprinkled with pixie dust.

Not just a festival for children, Sherri Bennett, 43, of Black Mountain arrived at 10 a.m. and worked to finish her fairy house before judging began at 2:30 p.m. She brought along a wagon full of items like pinecones, moss and shells and used honey to adhere acorns to the roof. Bennett came with her 8-year-old niece, sister-in-law and mother-in-law, Sharon Bennett.

“It’s a family affair, it’s been a bonding experience,” Sharon Bennet said. “I’d highly recommend it. We’ll definitely be back next year.”

Trenda: 704-358-5089 Twitter: @htrenda
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