‘It’s the highlight of the whole summer’ | TheUnion.com

‘It’s the highlight of the whole summer’

A fire-breathing dragon met the entrants of the Children’s Festival in Nevada City Friday, but that was the only thing remotely scary in the day’s Renaissance-flavored revelry.

Merlin the Magician strolled the grounds and musicians plucked harps for about 2,000 children and their parents at Pioneer Park.

“I get to make stuff like shields and swords,” said Evan Frazier, of Grass Valley who was there with brother, Isaac Frazier.

At the table next to them was Dante Locatelli, of Grass Valley, with mom Sarah Locatelli, making magic wands.

“It’s the highlight of the whole summer,” Sarah Locatelli said. “I wish they could do it more than once.”

Rebecca Russum, of Grass Valley, walked around with toddler son Walter Russum on her shoulders. Shy Walter’s grin said everything.

“It’s just so much fun here,” Rebecca Russum said. “I used to come to this when I was a kid.”

The festival started in 1971 when Pat Cobler, of Nevada City, and now-deceased friend Ilse Barnhart decided to do something to produce inexpensive but major fun for Nevada County youths.

“It went until 1989 and then ran out of gas,” said event publicity chairman Roseanne Burke. When Barnhart died in 2002, the festival was resurrected in her honor.

“It’s really volunteers who get together every year to do this. There’s well over 200,” Burke said. “We start cutting shields, swords and crowns at Christmas.”

Cobler is back at the reins of the fair, along with Gayle Martin, of Nevada City.

“She has it really organized, and she’s the chairman now,” Cobler said of Martin. “All my grandkids are here, the whole family.”

While others milled about with painted faces between catapult contests, many children cooled off in Little Deer Creek and threw rocks in the water.

Back at the entrance, Gabe Zanotto, of Richvale, gave repeated demonstrations of his home-made metal dragon that moves it head and shoots flames out of its nostrils.

“I go anywhere they need a dragon,” Zanotto said.

Friday, he was in the perfect spot.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com, or call 477-4237.

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