Oakland’s Dream, Disney’s Inspiration


FOR MORE THAN TWO decades, I’ve reported the news — most often, the bad news. I broadcast the fires, murders and chaos, because those were the headline stories. “If it bleeds, it leads,” a boss once told me.

Funny, but I can hardly take all that news today. The phrase “TMI” comes to mind — too much information, too much negative information.

That’s why I focus on happy news, the sometimes silly but mostly uplifting stuff that you don’t always hear about — but maybe you should: stuff like the changes at Children’s Fairyland.

C. J. Hirschfield is the executive director of this Oakland treasure and is beaming over what’s being accomplished. She says staff and volunteers are really sprucing the place up — with a new covered amphitheater, a totally refurbished storybook puppet theater and a kid-sized Old West town.

She’s also joined forces with Target stores for a multi-cultural storytellers series and “sweetened” the pot with a partnership with Fentons. On Aug. 14 and 15, park visitors can build and eat a giant 50-foot ice cream sundae.

Many folks say the park was an inspiration for Disneyland. In fact, when Walt Disney came here in 1954, he was so impressed that he hired Fairyland’s director away at double her salary.

“There’s so much love for this park,” says Hirschfield, who gave up her career in cable television two years ago to run the Lake Merritt amusement park. “People can’t imagine Oakland without a Fairyland,” she says. And to that I add, “Don’t even try.”

Sunday stroll

Maybe it’s time to resurrect the old Sunday stroll. Drop your sweat pants and don something fancy for an afternoon of window shopping and fine nibbling on Grand Avenue.

Reader Audrey Daniels tells me the Coffee Mill has live jazz from 3 to 6 p.m. every Sunday, and the street offers a world of ethnic cuisine — from Korean and Thai to Italian. There’s a theater, book store and even a chocolatier on Grand Avenue, where Sunday’s are something to celebrate.

Street art

A mystery artist has returned to the hills to repaint the sign along Skyline Boulevard near Shepherd Canyon Road. With just months until our president election, the painter reverted to the message, “Vote for those who vote for the Earth.” And just as quickly as the artist surfaced, he seems to have disappeared — to live in Italy, I’m told.

E-mail bag

With documentaries being so popular these days, reader Jamie Sharp wants people to know about a group of budding movie journalists. Reel Kids Films is a company of Bay Area students, teachers and film makers who focus on social themes like violence prevention and women’s rights. Anyone interested in working on, supporting or making donations to the group’s film “Times Like These, Again” should check the Web site, http://www.reelkidsfilms.com/.

Running ‘afowl’

Wild turkey sightings are up in the hills, and it’s not just at Crogans. Lisa N. says she was playing with her 5-month-old daughter when she looked up to see one of these fine-feathered fowl in her yard. Later, when it re-appeared, she was able to capture it on camera. I’m including a photo to remind you that Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

Reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-273-9418 or on the Web at http://www.ginnyprior.com/.

Fun at Fentons: C. J. Hirschfield, executive director of Children’s Fairyland, Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown, Fentons President Scott Whidden, Elvia De La Fuente and Karl Osterloh, president of the Fairyland Board of Directors, attend a kick-off fund-raiser for Children’s Fairyland at Fentons Creamery on Piedmont Avenue on July 18, National Ice Cream Day. July sales of Fentons’ Fairyland Sundae, Myrtle’s Creation and a special T-shirt will benefit the park; patrons bringing Fairyland keys to Fentons receive discounts on some items. Fentons is also celebrating its 110th anniversary this year. See http://www.fentonscreamery.com/ or call 510-658-7000 for more details.

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