EDITORIAL: Fairie Festival becomes too much
Spoutwood Farm is a magical place.
The idyllic 26 acres of Spoutwood is home to a nonprofit organic farm, with a community-supported agriculture program; an observatory with a variety of telescopes available on viewing nights; an array of activities from teaching teens to cook to drum circles and harvest festivals. Along with owners Rob and Lucy Wood, the rolling hills are home to dogs, cats, horses, goats and a variety of other animals.
Spoutwood Farm is also the main homestead for the fairy population of York County.
Each spring for 27 years, volunteers at Spoutwood have spent time preparing the farm for the summer work ahead by maintaining habitat for the "fae" and holding the May Day Fairie Festival.
“Our mission is to get people to celebrate the country and the land,” Rob Wood said. “We thought, let’s do it in a way they used to do it thousands of years ago. It would be when — yes — you could see the leaves coming out on the trees. There’s no question that summer was coming.”
Each year, children and adults descend on the farm for the weekend to celebrate everything fairy, dressing in costumes, running through bubbles and performing a maypole dance. There are vendors selling costumes, wands, wings, headpieces, food and many green products. There are stages with entertainers, musicians and storytellers, and there are drum circles.
Over the years, the Fairie Festival became the major fundraiser for Spoutwood, bringing as many as 16,000 people to the Codorus Township farm.
And over the years, it became too much.
Volunteers spend months organizing the vendors, the food, the sanitation needs, accommodations, parking and more. Thousands of people clog roads through the countryside that normally see only a handful of vehicles each day.
“It was a big job,” said Dana Stout, aka Posie the Fairy, festival coordinator for 10 years. “I knew the end was near because it was becoming too big to manage.”
Last year, torrential rains forced Spoutwood to cancel the final day of the festival as the farm and the surrounding area turned to mud.
"When it's rainy and soggy, sometimes the grass doesn't fully recover and things get trampled," Wood said, adding it puts a strain on the area. "The neighbors can't get to their homes, and the traffic is backed up. Last year, when all of the traffic was going in and out, the road was so muddied that we had to hire someone to clean it up."
And so, after talks with Codorus Township about the festival and the problems it caused, Spoutwood decided it will host one final festival this year and then end the tradition.
While it is sad to see this festival come to an end, it is good to see people working together to balance the rights of property owners with the rights of the community at large.
Codorus Township bills itself as a quiet place, with rolling hills, streams and farms. Spoutwood is, rightly, in an agricultural zone, and the nonprofit seeks to educate people on natural farming methods, biodiversity and natural cycles.
While the farm has worked the Fairie Festival into its mission for 27 years, it has become too much of a burden, both for the land and for the people.
While Codorus Township supervisors have kept an eye on the Fairie Festival and had complaints from some neighbors, the township seems to have allowed Spoutwood to come to the decision to end the festival on its own.
That's the way township government should work: Keep an eye on things, but only step in if there is no other choice.
The fairy habitat will remain at Spoutwood Farm even without the festival, we're sure. The fae might even enjoy the chance to restore the natural balance on the farm and in the township without thousands of people stomping through.
"After 27 years, the grounds have become engulfed in glitter.” said Posie the Fairy.
The final May Day Fairie Festival will be held May 4-6 at Spoutwood Farm. For information, go to www.spoutwood.org.