Meet the fairy caretaker of Airport Heights
Elaine Thibault has created a magical land of fairies and gnomes
Elaine Thibault's face stretches into a smile and her eyes widen when she talks about the children who love fairies as much as she does.
"People think I'm a little bit eccentric, taking care of the gnomes [and fairies] but today's stress, work day-to-day, it's OK to have a little magic in your life, no matter how old you are," Thibault said.
Thibault grew up in Airport Heights, playing and walking through a path that has now become a manicured trail that cuts over a river jumping with small fish.
Now, she's known as trail custodian and caretaker of the fairies and gnomes said to live behind the 50 tiny colourful doors adorned with colour and patterns she's built along the path.
"If they see fairy dust by the door, you know a fairy has gone through the door," she said as she plucked weeds from the base of a fairy door attached to a tree.
Three years ago, Thibault closed her daycare business after 30 years. To continue to do something for the neighbourhood children, she contacted the City of St. John's and Grand Concourse Authority to get approval to add fairy doors to the trail.
She uses her own time and money to buy pressure-treated wood, outdoor paint and galvanized nails that won't damage the trees with rust.
Writing to the fairies
There are 50 doors in total, though she has to replace 30 since the for-fun project started.
"Today's world is so stressful for kids and this gives a little bit of magic, a little bit of positivity, and gets kids off their iPhones, off their iPads and outside," she said.
Children often knock on the fairy doors and run away before they come out, and leave treasures, like stones, sticks and pine cones — each having their own purpose for the fairies, Thibault said.
This year, Thibault added a letterbox to her fence, which backs onto the trail, inviting children to write letters to the fairies.
They always write back — on tiny paper, of course.
Most of the letters are complimentary. Others have questions — where do fairies go in the winter, for example? (In the trees, if you're wondering.)
"We had a little girl who is nine years old and was friends with an 11-year-old, and she's having a hard time adjusting from pre-puberty and puberty and she didn't know how to handle her friend. She asked the fairies to give her magic to tell her friend to be nicer," Thibault said, laughing.
Good fairies of Airport Heights
She has been inspired by her granddaughter, who has anxiety attacks and finds comfort in the good fairies of Airport Heights.
And as much joy it has brought children — some of whom visit from other parts of the city and province — Thibault said it makes her just as happy as it does them.
"[Children] who are really quiet and autistic, it brings them out of their shells. And man, that means a lot to me."
No matter the cost or the time it takes, Thibault said she will keep it up.
"Fairies can be good or bad. But my fairies are nice and they make you feel better, they take your worries away. That's the most important thing."
The trail begins on Durness Street and comes out on Macbeth Drive.