The Altamont Fair’s fairy godmother continues to enchant children

— From Alexandra Fasulo

Snapshot from the past: Fifteen years ago, in 1999, Mrs. Red Shoes, whose real name is Barbara S. Bennett, at left, helped Eliza Vera, Allegra Fasulo and Alexandra Fasulo make a craft at the Altamont Fair that they could take home, for free.


To the Editor:

For as long as I can remember, my cousin, sister, and I could not wait for the Altamont Fair every year.  We lived for that one week full of horseshows, eager animals, delicious food, and wondrous crafts and artwork proudly displayed by the crafters and artists.

Our favorite spot was always the Arts & Crafts Building.  Every day of the fair, there would be a new craft awaiting us, distributed by our favorite craft teacher, Mrs. Red Shoes.

Mrs. Red Shoes never failed to amaze us with her new craft, free of charge for any child or adult who wanted to take home a little souvenir from the fair.  As kids, we thought Mrs. Red Shoes was the most amazing woman, teaching us new craft skills and letting us take home whatever we wanted, always with a smile on her face.

This past year, I visited Mrs. Red Shoes, as I do every year, and sat down with her to get the full story of who Mrs. Red Shoes truly is and why she is able to make every child light up from her magical crafting touch.

Mrs. Red Shoes has been running the arts and crafts table at the Altamont Fair for 15 years.  For the first seven years, she received funding from her place of employment to venture to the fair and teach kids new crafts for free.

Eight years ago, the funding was cut from Mrs. Red Shoes operation — yet she was still at the fair that year.  Mrs. Red Shoes took it upon herself to fund the table completely on her own, and take her one vacation a year during Fair Week so that kids, like me, could continue to craft with her.

“I felt horrible when that happened,” said Mrs. Red Shoes. “I couldn’t let the kids down.  They’ve grown up in front of my craft table.”

I asked her how her interest in crafting began, and she said she’d never forget the day her mother gave her an origami-crafting book when she was around 8 years old.  Since then, she’s been teaching origami at local schools and museums, hoping to spread the joy of art and crafting.

“I love doing it,” she said. “I plan to be here at the fair until my fingers can’t fold paper anymore.”

I then asked her if her name was truly “Mrs. Red Shoes.”  The name came from her time at the Schenectady museum when Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus was incredibly popular.  They asked her if she would go by that name for the kids, but she refused and came up with Mrs. Red Shoes because she frequently wore red shoes.

While I interviewed her, she was wearing red crocs, with a pair of red clogs hidden under the table for a possible shoe change.

At this point in the interview, a father and his children came into the building and walked right up to her and said, “We couldn’t leave the fair without seeing Mrs. Red Shoes.”

She smiled and helped the little girl get started on that day’s craft: an origami wreath.  

Mrs. Red Shoes has been retired for a year now from her days of working at craft stores.  Her time she spends at the fair is completely voluntary and will continue to be so until she can no longer make it to the fair.

I watched little kids come running up to her all afternoon; they would light up from the free craft they could complete with their parent or friend.  Mrs. Red Shoes just watched the kids with a grin over her face, never asking for anything from anyone.

She was reluctant to sit down with me for a newspaper story, but I feel that her selfless and heartwarming story deserved to be shared with as many people as possible.

Later that evening, after Mrs. Red Shoes had gone home, I walked back into the Arts & Crafts Building one more time.  I noticed a scrapbook on one of the tables, dating back to the mid-1990s.  I started to flip through the book, and what did I find, but a picture of my sister, cousin and me as children crafting with Mrs. Red Shoes.

Alexandra Fasulo


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