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What is this place?
Look at that! A giant teacup with children frolicking inside. Massive mittens hang nearby.
A few steps away, a tiny fairy trails sparkly dust over greenery, and I start to wonder: was there something in that brownie I had for dessert?
Up ahead, an ominous-looking, grey-faced man beats an ugly stick as he looks out at the falling snow.
Snow? It’s June!
A man in a white lab coat and black felt hat approaches me.
He wears glasses and has a beard. He seems friendly enough.
“I’m David Keating,” says David Keating.
“Or would you rather interview me as Professor Laxity?”
Ah yes, I recall the news release did mention something about a holographic fairy, a giant teacup and professors.
I stop fretting about the brownies, and Keating takes a seat.
This magical attraction is his brainchild.
Keating created it last summer, taking a step away from his 20-plus years in a career in advertising as co-owner and creative director at Upstream Marketing.
“It’s three different exhibits, and all of it sort of takes different parts of Newfoundland folklore, Newfoundland history (and) Newfoundland culture – things like fairies, which have always been around, but now with the younger generation they don’t really know those stories anymore.”
Keating grew up in Marystown and plans to bring his interactive storytelling attraction to communities across the province.
On Friday, NewfoundlandLand was set up at Easter Seals on Mount Scio Road.
The first exhibit has one of the “fairy rescue professors” (actors) bring a group into a curtained area, where he tells them about what they’re doing to save the province’s fairies. Guests take a piece of bread before they enter through another curtain to see a tiny holographic fairy “wake up” from a nap inside a flower.
Next is “Dark Night of the Ugly Stick,” a puppet stop-animation film that was an installation at Eastern Edge Gallery and toured Alberta about a decade ago. It has since gathered dust in Keating’s basement, until he “resurrected” it as an exhibit for NewfoundlandLand.
Finally, there’s a storytelling session about the Talls – a play on “tall tales” – about a family of giants who once lived in Placentia Bay. This exhibit features giant “artifacts,” which, as the tale goes, once belonged to the family.
Richard Short, the company’s visual arts director, has a story about each prop in the attraction. The giant teacup was designed in Newfoundland but fabricated in China out of fibreglass, then shipped in a giant crate. The huge lunchbox didn’t have as far to travel – it was made by Jenkins & Puddicombe Sheet Metal on Hamilton Avenue.
Short is also a teacher, and he said children will take away more from the attraction than just cotton candy and popcorn.
“I think it’s important because a lot of our traditional stories are being lost. Even though a lot of them are being passed down by grandparents telling stories to children, a lot of it is a disconnect of technology and communication whereby the kids aren’t interested in listening to stories because everything in their world is so visual.
“What we’re doing is we’re using technology, and video, and very huge and impressive objects to bring those kids closer to the story, so that we can then feed them the history and the folklore of their province.”
The next stop for the unique attraction will be at the One Stop Bump Baby & Family Expo at the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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