It’s hard not to notice a fairy godmother wandering around Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village. As Claudia Levin, aka “The Winter Queen of the Faeries”, drifts around the shopping center on a drizzly Saturday morning before Christmas in a cloud of glitter, sequins and yards of lace and taffeta heads swivel once, then twice for a double-take.
“Is that…” asks a woman walking by. Yes, Virginia, there is a Fairy Godmother.
Levin, 61, is a local performer who spends much of her fall and winter as either the Pumpkin Fairy Godmother at the Adobe Pumpkin Farm near Petaluma or the Winter Faerie Queen at various holiday events. Over the last ten years, you may have seen her atop her pumpkin throne or floating around Santa Rosa in one of her various guises (she also does palm readings, singing telegrams and a few other characters throughout the year, including Mrs. Claus). But regardless of what she’s wearing, Levin’s real trade is in granting wishes and dreams to anyone who believes.
If you follow her around for even a few minutes, you’ll soon realize that just about everyone believes.
“I grant wishes for people from 1 to 140,” she says, as a group of teens come over to her for a closer look at the shopping plaza. One boy bows and calls her “Your Majesty”, a girl quietly whispers to Levin and stands stone still as Levin waves her wand over her head and sprinkles “fairy dust” in her hand.
“I hear your wishes like a beautiful song and keep them in my heart all year long,” she lilts. The girl walks away smiling. “Well that was fun,” she giggles.
At a time when reality is all to real, Levin’s soft-spoken, earnest presence and desire to bring smiles to the faces of strangers might seem a bit corny. But as she walks around, reactions are anything but cynical. In fact, most folks seem downright charmed.
“How do you do you tell a fairy princess you don’t want a wish?” asks Katherine Oliver of Santa Rosa, who was holding a spot in line for her grand-daughter to see Santa Claus as Levin closed in and asked she and her daughter, Emily Twitchell, also of Santa Rosa, what they wished for this year. “Her softness just invites people to join in,” said Twitchell, smiling.
“People come out of curiosity. They’re magnetized to the little spark of energy and the costume,” Levin says. Her elaborate costumes even have stories of their own. “I tell the children that the jewels on my hat were a shooting star in the dark sky that landed right on my head. People want to have that hope and belief,” she adds.
“We started three years ago having the Winter Queen at our holiday open house,” said Melissa Williams, Director of Marketing and operations at Montgomery Village Shopping Center. “It was, at first, all about the children. She’d hand out treats and grant wishes. What was even sweeter was the fact that adults of all ages actually seek her out to be granted a wish. It’s quite touching to see the amazement of children when they see her approaching them. Adults, too.”
Of course, one doesn’t just become a godmother overnight. Levin, who runs Levin Entertainment and Events has been performing in the Bay Area since the late 1970s — including as a member of a Middle Eastern dance troupe where she danced with a snake. “I tell people I traded in my snake for a wand,” says Levin. She later moved on to playing Mrs. Claus at the holidays after a friend gave her a costume. “She was my gateway,” she says. Finally, she was inspired by a therapist in Sonoma County years ago who sometimes played Glinda the Good Witch (from the Wizard of Oz) at events. “She bequeathed (being a fairy godmother) to me. I got my wish from her,” says Levin.
Levin makes it clear she isn’t a therapist, though her work with strangers can sometimes be surprisingly intimate. “People will tell me stories in their life. People unload heavy stuff and they leave lighter,” says Levin. “Its good work. It’s a joy for me, and its needed work in the world. People just don’t expect it, and that’s a gift to them and to me,” says Levin.
Sashaying away in a whoosh of fairy dust and goodwill, she says,”Wish a wish that’s right for you, and I’ll be with you the whole year long.”