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The City Journals

Viridian celebrates Roald Dahl’s birthday

Oct 31, 2016 10:05AM ● By Tori LaRue

Nora Foote, 7, and her brother Tommy Foote, 5, catch bubbles in butterfly nets at the Viridian Event Center’s Roald Dahl Day celebration on Oct. 7. (Tori La Rue/City Journals)

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

West Jordan, Utah - Roald Dahl’s most popular children’s books came to life during the Viridian Event Center’s Oct. 7 celebration of the author’s centennial birthday. 

“We were planning on doing a big party in October, and it was between Roald Dahl and Harry Potter, but we decided on Roald Dahl because his 100th birthday only comes once,” said Amanda Paige, youth services librarian.

Dahl, who also wrote adult novels, is most well-known for his nearly 20 children’s’ books that are written in an imaginative style where the rules of nature are mixed-up, making his works a perfect fit for a night full of family games, Paige said. 

Children and adults bustled through the Viridian’ event rooms that had been converted into a fantastical fair with stations themed by Dahl’s books: “James and the Giant Peach,” “Matilda,” “The BFG,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Witches.”

Some children listened as a librarian gave a Roald Dahl story time in the adjoining West Jordan Library while others determined their Roald Dahl names by matching the first letter of their first and last name with a word from one of Dahl’s stories. 

Nora Foote, known for the night as The Wondercrump Bunce, and her brother Tommy Foote ran along the back right corner of the room catching bubbles with colorful butterfly nets at one of The BFG stations. The activity symbolized “dream catching,” a major theme in the book. The 7-year-old sister and her little brother playfully bantered as they leaped to catch bubbles that loomed over their heads. 

“This activity is perfect for them,” said Katy Foote, the children’s mother. “We read Roald Dahl books together all the time, and they love all of the exaggerating and pretending.” 

Other BFG-based activities included opportunities for chldren to draw their own “phizzwizards,” a made-up word Dahl uses in his story to define peaceful, happy dreams. Participants constructed fake “big, friendly giant,” or “BFG,” ears out of construction paper. 

The Witches station, which was run by the Westminster College chapter of the American Chemical Society, included four stations. With the help of the society members who were dressed in lab coats and witch hats, participants shrunk pictures of frogs, burnt clay snakes, created potions and changed the color of pieces of paper.

“We do Halloween-themed events like this all of the time, but we really tried to base this off of the things that they do in ‘The Witches’ book,” Jess Tobin, one of the society members, said of the cross-curricular event that combined science and reading. “It’s good to see these kids making connections at such a young age.” 

The Roald Dahl extravaganza continued as children stamped ink images of bugs into peach print-outs at the “James in the Giant Peach” station and built candy necklaces at the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory station.”

Brothers Tyler, Chris and Isaac Powell started out their Roald Dahl Day celebration by coloring pictures of a newt at the Matilda station. The brothers stuck their colored newts on a person-sized cutout of the fictitious character “The Trunchbull”—the mean headmistress from “Matilda.” This activity is based off of the scene in the book where a student places a newt in “The Trunchbull’s” drinking water. 

“These books are full of funny stuff,” Chris Powell, 7, said. “I can’t wait to see the rest.”

More than 100 people came to the Roald Dahl day, which Paige, who was on the event’s planning committee, classified as a success.

“It’s amazing to put on such a fun event that promote literacy and reading,” she said. “The planning paid off.”