Approaching a giant paper mache dragon called Rosabelle, 6-year-old Skyler Rollins was taken aback when he pulled her cloth tongue, tossed a snow cone in her mouth and heard her exclaim, "Thank you. I love snow cones.—I feel like the last man standing. All the responsibility is on my shoulders. ... There is no turning back. If I turn back, I betray all my comrades," said a Burmese activist who heads a leading dissident group,
Some of the children and even some of the parents who see Rosabelle at the annual Children's Festival at the Britt Gardens in Jacksonville think the voice comes from someone inside the dragon's body, said festival volunteer Eric Dillard.
Facing the dragon was a gray plywood castle with a two-way mirror and a pair of white shoes peeking beneath.
The shoes belonged to 15-year-old Jacksonville resident Wesley Lightner, one of the many voices of Rosabelle. He and other young volunteers took half-hour shifts Sunday inside the castle observing what children tossed into the dragon's chops and commenting accordingly.
Some 1,500 to 2,000 people turned out Sunday for the 42nd annual festival intended to raise money for the Jackson County Storytelling Guild.
Founded in 1963, the guild promotes reading among children with storytelling at Central Library in Medford each Wednesday, Dial-a-Story at 541-774-6439 and Bookwalk, a book fair for third-graders; among other activities.
Children and their families encircled the grounds in three lines waiting for admission to the festival Sunday, which transformed the Britt grounds into a children's wonderland of face paintings, a maze in a plywood castle, live bugs and other colorful booths, crafts and diversions.
Children performed for an audience on the Britt stage, including ballerinas, gymnasts and karate students.
Medford resident Michelle Shreiver sat on the lawn with her toddler daughter, Julia, who was grooving to the song "I Got the Power"as they watched a performance by a troupe of toddler gymnasts.
"We wait for this every year," Shreiver said.
Rosabelle, the dragon, has been a fixture of the children's festival as well as the Fourth of July celebrations in Central Point and Eagle Point, Dillard said.
Meant to encourage children to throw their trash in the proper receptacle, this year, Rosabelle's many voices were instructed to also focus on encouraging children recycle. A recycling bin was placed next to her shiny green breast.
Upon receiving a plastic bottle inside Rosabell's mouth, the script inside the secret castle booth prompted Wesley and his fellow volunteers to say, "Thanks for the water, but next time, you can recycle it."
"It's fun seeing the faces of the kids because they're surprised when I say, 'You have a snow cone.' They say, 'What?' "
Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or email@example.com
Correction: The original caption with one of the photos with this story incorrectly identified the people pictured. This version has been corrected.