Magic and merriment at Enchanted Woods

Jul 11, 2020

Dartmouth families got a little magic back in their lives on Saturday as they walked through the woods meeting fairies, princesses, and superheroes along the way.

The “Enchanted Woods” event hosted by volunteers from a parents’ Facebook group and Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust brought dozens of families out to Paskamansett and Gidley Woods on July 11.

Once there, kids participated in a tightly scheduled, socially distanced scavenger hunt. 

They searched for unicorn shoes, butterflies, and several of their favorite characters in the woods, which were decorated with lanterns, lights, and flower wreaths and garlands.

Around 25 Dartmouth Middle and High School students dressed up as fairies and film characters including Moana, Spider-Man, Batman, and Cinderella.

Many of the kids who came to the event dressed up in costume themselves.

“I just saw a mermaid,” said two-year-old Kaius Francis, who was wearing his Batman mask for the occasion. “And I saw Anna, too!”

“Our neighbor actually told us she was dressing up today, so that’s how we found out about it,” said Kathryn Shilling, who was taking daughters Caroline, 6, and Jane, 4, around the woods. “We haven’t seen her yet, but we’re kind of searching for her.”

“I like to see the kids’ reactions, and whether they think I’m Batman or not,” said Henry Caron, who was celebrating his 12th birthday dressed as the Dark Knight. “It’s been nice. It’s getting a little hot in the costumes, though!”

“It’s hot,” echoed Emma Waite, 14, who was volunteering as a princess in a multi-layered purple dress. “It’s really hot.”

Sixteen-year-old Brooks Roach, on the other hand, said that his Spider-Man costume wasn’t too hot. “Everybody seems very excited and happy,” he said.

“I think the best part is when kids are all shy, and then when you say hi to them they smile really wide,” noted sixteen-year-old Kaitlyn DaSilva, who was dressed as one of the Incredibles.

And parents also enjoyed the opportunity to let their kids enjoy the outdoors.

“This is great,” said Mike Reynolds, who was dressed in his UMass police uniform as he and three-year-old son Carson met Captain America and company. “It’s perfect for them to get out.”

New School Committee member and parent Mary Waite came up with the idea, organizing and hosting the event in support of (and in conjunction with) DNRT, asking families to donate $10 per car.

Waite rose early to decorate the woods for the big day.

“We were a little worried about the weather, but we were able to keep it going,” she said with a smile. “Everybody’s definitely social distancing, and it’s a beautiful day.”

“We were extra careful with the signups and splitting everyone, and everything else,” she added. “We really spread people out...the families are all wearing masks, they’re being really respectful.”

Waite’s whole family was involved with the event, with her kids and their cousins dressing up as volunteers and husband Ben making ATV runs to distribute water and take volunteers back for bathroom breaks.

In fact, she said, she’s already thinking about hosting a similar event for Halloween this year.

As for the kids and families, Waite noted, “They seem like they’re having a great time.”

“I’m having a great time,” she added with a laugh. “This is amazing!”