Volunteers have been working with fervor to complete as much as possible of the Children’s Storybook Garden and Farm History Museum Phase 1, prior to its soft opening on September 23.
Located at the corner of Harris and Tenth in downtown Hanford, Storybook was the brainstorm of Judy Wait, a retired Hanford teacher. She combined her teaching skills with her love for gardening, and in 2011 with her husband, Larry, took off on a trip to visit children’s gardens around the country.
Six years later, with some 70-80 regular volunteers and so many in the local community, her fairytale has become a reality, not that she ever doubted it would.
“I’m a believer,” she said. “I knew it would happen – it shows how much this was wanted.”
The garden and museum have been, and continue to be, developed through a non-profit organization of the same name. The original one-acre property purchase was made possible through a loan – now paid-off through a $200,000 donation through a private donor who wishes to remain nameless. Prior to that a donor-loaner, another private individual, helped ease payments by making them for the organization, allowing funds for progress on the museum and gardens. That donor-loaner has also been repaid in full.
The Victorian Burr Home, to become the museum, gift shop and kitchen, was donated by Bill Clark. And, through the donations of so many others including in part, Allen Laird Plumbing, Mike Crain Heating and Air, Randy Mc Nary Construction, Dan Veyna – Sierra Landscape & Design, Zumwalt & Hansen Engineering, Home Depot, Bettencourt Farms, Joe Robinson Concrete and Willie Williams Masonry, Storybook remains debt free.
“It’s very grass roots,” said Kate Catalina, a long-term volunteer. “Everything is through volunteers and local support, given with love.”
Sponsorships of individual gardens and or building areas have played an important part, as well.
With Phase 1 comes Peter Rabbit’s Burrow, Mr. McGregor’s House, Charlotte’s Dairy Barn, the Woodland Log Cabin and Garden, a Salsa Garden, the Teaching or Kitchen Garden, Nolan’s Critter Creek and Pond, the Topiary Garden, a Pizza Garden, the Three Little Pigs homes and Monet’s House. Each garden will have its own unique features to explore, and a book box holding books representing the inspiration for each, will be placed there for reading.
The Teaching Garden will be planted with fall and winter crops by the children in the first field trips. Following groups will help tend to the garden and later harvest, clean and prepare the crops.
The Victorian Burr Home is furnished with antiques donated by the community.
“We’re trying to set up as in its heyday,” Catalina said.
The Tank House, which came along with the Burr House, is also refreshed and will be utilized in teaching water conservation.
Storybook is managed and run through its volunteers. However, an educational director and teaching assistant have been hired, each with her own set of experiences.
“We were lucky to get these two really special people,” Wait said. “What sold us on them, was that you could just tell they love kids and love gardening, and would love this children’s garden.”
Student volunteers are also welcome and encouraged through the Green Teens Club, ages 13-18. They will learn to be docents and readers in the gardens, and will receive community service hours. There is already a 4-H club tending to some of the gardens, as well as members of World Link Volunteer, a foreign-exchange group.
Upon completion of Phase 1, Phase 2 will start to come together early next year, with completion of a new bathroom facility. Also in Phase 2 will be the building of the Stone Cottage, the Secret Garden and Celebration Garden. Completion of Phase 2 will allow for Storybook to be available for weddings and other small outdoor gatherings.
“I just feel like it is all coming together,” Wait said. “And, it’s beautiful as it is happening.”
Field trips for many Hanford schools have already been arranged. Any school within the county and beyond, as well as clubs and other groups are welcome to schedule a trip. Storybook will also be open to the public starting with the soft opening. The hours, to start, are Tuesday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm. Storybook will be closed on Mondays.
Storybook will also feature a variety of special occasions including its first Happily Haunted Halloween Light Show in October. Some type of children’s event and adult event will eventually be held each month including multi-cultural events, Wait said.
Sponsorships for areas of the gardens and buildings are still needed. Monetary donations of $50 can be applied to a foot of fencing, or a brick becoming a border on a walkway.
Kings County Board of Supervisors Chair Craig Pedersen, who grew up in Kings County, said the board is excited about the project.
“A place where children have the opportunity to explore and grow is a good thing,” he said. “Anything we can do to try and help, we’ll do.”
For more information and to volunteer or donate, view, www.childrensstorybookgarden.org/ or call, 559-341-4845.