Think about how much happier you'd be if you were donning butterfly wings and prancing through a mighty forest right now. (You're smiling thinking about it, aren't you?) We could all use a little more magic in our lives; in fact, we need a little more magic in our lives.

Oatland Island Wildlife Center has created a day of enchantment, just for us, with the upcoming Fairy & Gnome Festival. OK, so technically it's geared toward the "wee folk," but we should all be encouraged to explore the natural world with active outdoor play.

"It's a way to reinforce the wonder that is nature," said Michelle Kelly, a naturalist on the education staff at Oatland. "Children that appreciate nature will be the ones that grow up and protect it."

During the festival, children can forage in the enchanted forest for gnomes; help construct a fairy village using all natural materials; show off their costumes in the fairy and gnome fashion show; and celebrate spring by dancing around the maypole.

Other enchanting activities include face painting, games, arts and crafts, live animal encounters and concessions. Additionally, wandering the center's two-mile "Native Animal Nature Trail" will reveal a glimpse of fairies and gnomes in their natural habitat.

The festival is marking its seventh year and serves as fundraiser to help with veterinarian bills, medicine, food and additional upkeep needed to protect the animals in the center's care, said Kelly.

The majority of Oatland's collection consists of habituated wild animals that were either born in captivity or injured in the wild, and therefore are non-releasable. Oatland Island Wildlife Center provides a sanctuary for these animals, as well as numerous educational opportunities for visitors.

The center aims to combine family fun with learning during the upcoming festival. It's the most attended event at Oatland, with more than 1,000 expected. Kelly suggests getting there early to participate in all of the games.

Costumes are also encouraged for full immersion into this magical outdoor world, even for the adults, because everyone looks good in glitter-laden butterfly wings.


What: Fairy & Gnome Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 6

Where: Oatland Island Wildlife Center, 711 Sandtown Road

Cost: $5 for adults; $3 for children 4-17, seniors, military and students; free for children 3 and younger; activity fees apply