Known as the boy who never wants to grow up, Peter Pan inspired Bowen Center for the Arts' annual children's event "Sail Away to Neverland" last Saturday.
Children's imaginations were at work and eyes were aglow at the hanging decorations, colorful set designs and playful accessories based on the 2011 edition of the illustrated Walt Disney "Peter Pan" book.
For Dawsonville resident Wendy Merry "Sail Away to Neverland" was a family affair.
Her 3-year-old daughter attended as a participant and her oldest daughter volunteered as a server with the Dawson County High School Juniorettes.
"I think the event offers children interaction with live characters. [My youngest daughter] got to swordfight and find treasure. She loves the whole pirate and ‘Peter Pan' story," Merry said.
Three-year-old Jocelyn Merry shyly said she likes Peter Pan and that "pirates are the best."
Nancy Fernandaz, whose five children attended, said her family had been looking forward to the event.
"This event spurs their imagination and brings the book to life," Fernandaz said. "Our children love to read and it is exciting for them to jump into a story. That is the fun part. We are definitely Neverland-series-people."
Pat Sneddon attended with her granddaughter Ellie, who is 21 months old. She gushed over the décor and said the story choice was ideal "because it has that fantasy effect."
"It lets children know it is OK to dream," she said.
As children roamed the rooms decorated as the children's London bedroom, the pirate ship and the island of Neverland they encountered storybook characters Captain Hook, Wendy and Peter Pan, who were recreated by theater group actors from the Dawson County Arts Council.
Todd Strickland played Captain Hook, Piper Jane Martin played Wendy and Peter Pan was played by Sean Newman.
Parents and children were treated to tea, coffee and juice along with doughnuts, breakfast items and fruit bowls. Juniorettes volunteered as event servers and were festively dressed in pirate regalia.
Gail Horne, council treasurer and board member, was delighted to see the center filled with laughter, giggles and fairy wings because "a lot of people don't know this art center is here.
"This event exposes the children to the arts," Horne said. "It is something fun for them, but it also brings them into the art center where we hope the parents will bring them back to art classes or junior theater shows."
At the event, numerous activities were offered, including an area where children could crawl into the lost boys tree stump, "walk the plank" into a crocodile's jaws or search for hidden "booty."
Between casual skits and sword fighting sessions with Captain Hook, the children also heard Tracy Walker, Dawson County Library youth services specialist, read "Peter Pan."
"[‘Peter Pan'] is a great story because all children know that story," Horne said. "When they came in the front door for the event some of them were already dressed in the costumes and some asked, ‘Is Captain Hook going to be here?' It is a childhood story that they all know."
At the end of story time Walker said: "I hope you always remember that taking the second star to the right and straight on to morning will always take you to Neverland."