A crowd of spectators watch a sword fight at FantasyWood in 2019. Photo courtesy of ManneqArt.
A coven of witches boiling little children in a giant cauldron. Zombies prowl around looking for spare parts. Colorful mermaids splashing in a tank. These are just some of the fantastic scenes you can see on a 400-acre farm in the middle of Howard County over Memorial Day weekend. During these three days only, the Living Farm Heritage Museum (12985 Frederick Road, West Friendship, Maryland), which usually hosts educational nature rides and vintage car shows, will transform into a magical forest for the FantasyWood Festival.
Costume designer Lee Andersen, who runs an arts and education nonprofit based in Columbia, Maryland ManneqArtcreated the festival to inspire creativity in the local community. “We’re just looking for people to take a deep breath of fresh air and be in a world completely removed from real life,” she says.
With the Inner Tree Trustwhich runs Merriweather Park, and the Circus mermaid pod mermaid performance group, Andersen held the first FantasyWood Festival at Arts and Culture Park in 2019. It was a success, with around 5,000 people showing up. Andersen wanted to make the festival an annual event, but Covid happened, causing it to be canceled in 2020 and 2021.
Instead of letting all the festival materials sit around with no one to enjoy them, she moved them all to a former supermarket and turned it into a 15,000 square foot art installation called DoodleHatch. Like FantasyWood, children can enter a world of fairy tales and ancient myths. They can learn about space at the Intergalactic Space Station, hop on a giant’s bed, or take art classes in creature sculpting or screenwriting. People can even donate and create their own art to submit to the gallery.
While DoodleHatch was a fix for a seemingly temporary problem, it isn’t going anywhere. But the art inside the gallery will be used for this year’s FantasyWood, along with a bunch of new installations. There will be a Time Fluxator that kids can use to travel through time and space, a 30-foot dragon named Hendrik the Drake that kids can ride (with the risk of being eaten), and a giant pirate ship sent by children’s television channel Nick Jr.
For some people this might seem a little childish, but FantasyWood isn’t just for kids. Andersen says there will be handsome vampires and ogres serving Bloody Marys and Mudslides for adults looking for a bit of buzz. Customers can also grab quick bites at the Swamp Snack Shack which sells ginger cookies made with “fire ants” and “moldy” popcorn. (Relax: other vendors offer more identifiable dishes, like tacos and burgers.)
Festival-goers of all ages are encouraged to wear costumes of any fantastical being they choose, whether it’s a pirate costume or a full steampunk outfit. The only caveats are that weapons (real or fake) are not allowed and costumes must be appropriate for children. If you don’t have the energy to create your own costume, there will be vendors at FantasyWood selling flower bouquets, tiaras, and other accessories.
A ticket to this magical getaway is $20 and three-day passes are $60. Children three and under can enter for free, and free parking is available.
The 2022 FantasyWoodFestival will take place the Living Farm Heritage Museum (12985 Frederick Road, West Friendship, Maryland) of From Saturday May 28 to Monday May 30.