Bellevue Arts Museum ARTSFair

What a weekend! After winching The Dragon onto the trailer in Port Townsend, driving down the highway, floating across Puget Sound on the Kingston/Edmonds ferry, up I-5, down I-405, and clearing the first skyway between the Bellevue Square Mall and its parking garage by 2 1/4 inches, I made it. And as far as I know, I am happy to report that no rubbernecking motorists veered off into the ditch as they watched me cruise by.

The last few weeks have been a push. I'd wake up, eat breakfast, and work until darkness drove me back inside. The morning I left Port Townsend, I was literally stapling the last shingles above the door as the playhouse sat on the trailer. But it always gets done, and once I parked in the ferry parking lot, I realized what the weekend would be all about: smiles. Thousands upon thousands of them. The weight of all those 12 hour days lifted with each new adult who walked over with that childish look of delight on their upturned face.

With the help of friends of family, we unloaded The Dragon in my space at the Bellevue Square Mall, and thanks to some other vendor's car trouble, I secured an even better location than I had been assigned. I built the scaffold to put the carved dragon head on (it's too tall to go down the highway) and finished out all those other little details that have to come off for transport.

After a few hours of sleep, I was back, turning the corner off the sidewalk onto West Drive and holy cow, here were a lot of people! I knew this show claimed to draw 350,000 people, but its hard to believe a number like that when you're baseline for busy is the Port Townsend Farmer's Market. By the time I got to The Dragon there were already a dozen kids playing inside. And it never stopped! I wish I had a way to know how many thousands (tens of thousands?) of children played in The Dragon over those three days, but I was too busy to count. For twelve hours a day The Dragon and I were surrounded by happy onlookers. I fielded questions from parents, grandparents and adults. After Friday I began to worry that my voice would give out. I'm normally I quiet person, and in one day I probably said more words than I had in the rest of July combined. I'm also a very humble person normally, but when I heard, over and over, passer-bys trying to meet up with their friends say, "I'll meet you at the dragon playhouse," into their cell phone, I knew I was on the map. I wasn't the most talented artist at the show (by far), but I was hands down the most noticeable.

Kids, on the other hand, probably noticed little else, period. They'd come down the main aisle, probably having been told a dozen times not to touch anything in the other artisans' booths (my neighbor was a blown glass artist, whose fragile wares were displayed on a tablecloth - terrifying, as a parent, let me tell you).

Then they would see The Dragon.

Their eyes would light up. They'd let go of their parent's hand, pointing at the head, and free from their parental tether, they'd run, all out, right into the doorway. That little door just told them, This is for you. They'd disappear inside, opening and closing the door and window, flicking the lights on and off, and their faces would just glow from behind the door's stained glass window.

And can I just say, how good they were? Many of the kids asked if they could go in. Some even took off their shoes before entering, unprompted. And I never once had to go in and break up a fight, or tell someone to share. The only crying I ever heard, and I heard it often, was when their "Five minutes" had dragged on to fifteen, or thirty, or, in two cases, over two hours, and their parents' voices finally took on that serious tone, that this time 30 seconds really did mean 30 seconds...until it didn't and their mom would smile, cross her arms and shake her head, because for the first time that afternoon their little girl or boy wasn't dragging two steps behind them asking when they could have a snack. And besides, they were on break, and unexpected parenting breaks are like sunny days in January in the Northwest. You don't waste them. I'd raise my eyebrows at them and smile, saying, "It's easy to get them in," leaving it up to them to fill in the logical follow up sentence. They'd smile back and nod, and together we'd watch their kids open the window for the fifteenth time, waving their little hands wildly back at Mom.

The rain held off until the end of Sunday, thankfully. We packed up, and I caught the 2:10am ferry out of Seattle and rolled in to Port Townsend at 4:00am. The Dragon came back with me, as I expected. It would have been a pretty unique coupe who would have bought a $46,000 dragon playhouse on an impulse. But like I told people, this was my showpiece, my Lexus. I pulled out all the stops for the show, to have you come over and talk to me. I was more interested in commissions, and I'd say I had 10 serious conversations with couples, which, if half of them turn into commissions, would keep me busy all year. So it's the waiting game. They'll go home, look at their backyards, talk about their finances, and a few weeks from now, or when their kid's birthday is approaching, hopefully my phone will start ringing. I'll work within their budget and design something tailor made to their child's interests and their backyard. Dragons aren't for everyone, but I think those couples could see what was possible.

Now that I'm back home, I feel good. The company is new, but my talent is deep, and I handed out 2,000 business cards. If I had any doubt of the Magic in Magical Playhouses, it's gone now. I saw it reflected thousands of times in the faces of the children, that same unexpected wonder of Christmas morning, proving that, sometimes, in the boring world of grown-ups, there are still pockets of magic, just waiting for you, where you least expect to find them.