Sarah Calloway, a 24-year-old nanny from Glen Burnie, wore wings Feb. 28 as she sat in a basement meeting room at the Church of the Guardian Angel in Remington.
So did one of Calloway's young charges, Fiona Gahaggan, 3, of Highlandtown. They didn't look at all out of place. Many of the 15 people in the room were wearing wings, too.
It had nothing to do with the "angel" in the church's name. They were there to see fairies, or more specifically, "faeries."
"It's beautiful," Calloway said when asked why she brought Fiona and Fiona's sister, Etta, 1, to North Baltimore to participate in Faerie Tells, a new, monthly storytelling and play hour at the Episcopal church. "It's creative. You get to run around and have fun."
Faeries have a place in Calloway's world view. When asked whether she actually believes in them, she said, "I do in a way. There are a lot of mysterious things that happen — and faeries are mischievous."
The Baltimore region's surprisingly robust network of faerie enthusiasts is making plenty of mischief these days, much of it at Guardian Angel, 27th Street and Huntingdon Avenue, where they are organizing a Baltimore Faerie Faire, believed to be the first urban festival of its kind in the city.
The fest is set for May 16, two weeks after the 24th annual Spoutwood Farm May Day Faerie Festival, May 1-3 in Glen Rock, Pa. — considered the faerie godmother of faerie festivals — and a month before the 11th annual Maryland Faerie Festival, which is scheduled for June 14-15, in Darlington in Harford County.
Promotional fliers and advance buzz online at the fundraising site http://www.gofundme.com/BmoreFaerieFaire describe the planned local festival as "a one-day festival and Faerie Ball in the Magikal Urbania of Baltimore."
"Check us out on Facebook and don't forget to feed the faeries," the flier states.
A fundraiser for the Faire will be held March 14 at the restaurant Sweet 27 in Remington, 127 W. 27th St., featuring raffles and an auction of faerie paraphernalia.
Meanwhile, the faerie faithful, who call themselves "faes" for short, are ingratiating themselves into the Remington community by launching Faerie Tells, which debuted in January and continued Saturday. The next one is March 28.
"We decided to let the neighborhood know who we are," said Nina Amaya, 51, who organized Faerie Tells and is also organizing the Baltimore Faerie Faire.
Amaya and a small but eager coterie of faeries ran the hour Saturday as a family-friendly event, twisting balloons into swords and snowmen and reading stories from children's books like "The Serpent Slayer."
Amaya, wearing a green faerie costume with a vine, woodlands motif and green and orange wings, served gingersnap cookies and a big pitcher of deep brown, steaming liquid. A magic potion, perhaps?
Amaya grinned and rolled her eyes.
"It's tea," she said.
Celebrating urban faeries
Amaya, a mother of five who lives in Idylwood on the city-county line and still owns her old house in Hampden, happened upon the Church of the Guardian Angel while organizing the Baltimore Faerie Faire.
"I was looking for a venue to celebrate the urban faeries, even though we've covered everything in cement," said Amaya, a former Waldorf School teacher, who has performed at the Maryland Faerie Festival and at Spoutwood.
Fellow faerie enthusiasts Dave Olsher and Lisa Oberg, who live next door to the Church of the Guardian Angel, recommended the church as a festival site and Amaya reached out to the pastor, the Rev. Alice Jellema.
"These folks came along and wanted to have their big faerie festival," Jellema said. She said she was impressed that the organizers were courteous to church members who are transgender.
Jellema said she agreed to rent space there — roughly the equivalent of reimbursing the church for utility expenses, she said — as long as they didn't promote anti-Christian or pagan practices.
The festival will be held mostly in the church's courtyard.
Oberg, 35, is thrilled to have members of the faerie community as neighbors, and in fact, she considers herself a faerie, too. The former actress performs as a princess and balloon artist at weddings and birthday parties.
"It led me down the crooked path, as it were, to being a faerie," she said.
Oberg said she loves Faerie Tells "because it's so focused on kids," and she loves faerie festivals like Spoutwood, where "everyone can dress up as their inner 6-year-old and wear wings on their backs — and no one is going to take you seriously."
But Oberg plans to be a vendor at the Baltimore Faerie Faire.
"No pouffy dresses for me," she said.
Good for Remington
On Saturday, that honor went to Allen Gale, 26, of Towson, a teacher in Anne Arundel County, who made a grand entrance at Faerie Tells as Ariel the Princess, wearing a billowing, baby blue gown.
Does Gale believe in faeries?
"Of course, I do," he said.
So do Susan Mowbray and Earl Gray, who took their grandson, Emerson Garcia Mowbray, 2, of Waverly to Faerie Tells.
"I'm into faeries," said Mowbray, of Parkville. She said she collects faerie figurines and goes to some of the festivals.
Gray said he believes in faeries, if only because his family does.
"I don't have a choice," he said.
Craig Bettenhausen, 31, of Remington, kept some emotional distance as he went to Faerie Tells with his daughter, Elsa, 1. He's a member of the church vestry and of the Greater Remington Improvement Association.
He said he doesn't know the faerie community well, but likes the idea of a faerie festival in Remington, which is known more as an up-and-coming magnet for developers such as Seawall Development Co., which has broken ground on its ambitious Remington Row housing and retail project.
Now, Bettenhausen figures, Remington, which is also known for its lack of recreational opportunities for families, can be known for faeries, too.
"Over and over, people say there's nothing for the youth," Bettenhausen said. He said a faerie presence is something the community can take advantage of — "and it's amusing."
Thinking back to his upbringing in a more conservative church in Fairfax, Va., he marveled at the prospect of a faerie festival in a church.
"It was something that would never fly in the church I grew up in," he said.