Fairytale Town in Land Park debuted a new play structure Saturday for the first time in 21 years, starring a popular character from West African folk tales named Anansi the spider.
“We really wanted to broaden the geography of the stories we represent here,” said Kathy Fleming, Fairytale Town executive director.
The story-book themed children’s park allows children to interact with places and characters from well-know fairy tales and nursery rhymes, such as King Arthur’s Castle, Sherwood Forest from “Robin Hood,” Cinderella’s Coach or the hill that Jack and Jill fell down.
Anansi the spider is known for using his smarts and wits to convince larger animals to do things for him, Fleming said, and kids identify with him because of that.
The new play structure, dubbed Anansi’s Web, features three vertical climbing webs hung between four posts adorned with some of the different animals featured in Anansi’s stories, including a leopard, python, monkey and turtle. A statue of Anansi sits in front of the webs with his two front arms stretched upward welcoming the children to come and play.
Fairytale Town kicked off the public opening of its new attraction with a celebration Saturday, which featured African drumming and dancing from the Felix Drum and Dance Company and a storytelling presentation, along with an Anansi the spider performance from Fairytale Town’s own Fairytale Town Troopers.
Anansi the spider’s attraction has been in the works for about two years, Fleming said. Fairytale Town applied for a grant from the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission in 2016, and after getting approved spent a year selecting an artist and another year for design and construction.
Six artists submitted idea proposals for Fairytale Town’s new attraction, but Fleming said they ultimately went with a local sculptor Garr Ugalde because his idea was just the right amount of whimsy and playfulness.
Areas and attractions near Anansi’s Web, such as The Old Woman in the Shoe Slide, also received some freshening up during the construction process, Fleming said.
Camora Miffin, 4, carried an Anansi the spider book in her hand and was visibly excited to see the new play structure. She immediately recognized some of the characters and rattled off some of their names.
“It’s very representative of the stories we have been reading about Anansi,” said Miffin’s mother, Alicia Parker, adding that Anansi the spider has been apart of their family’s story time since her daughter was an infant.
Anansi’s web has also become attractive to older children because they like the challenge of climbing the webs, Fleming said, one of which is about 8 feet tall.
Children generally age out of Fairytale Town around 8 or 9 years old, Fleming said, adding that exhibits like this will help keep kids coming back longer.
“Kids gain so much from play,” Fleming said.