Be honest: Your mom was the mother of dragons way before Game of Thrones was a thing. She raised you and your fellow fire-breathers, so for this Mother’s Day, Mom certainly deserves a break from reality—perhaps a little time spent in a woodland-inspired fantasy land. Lucky for you, such an enchanted village is located not far from your doorstep.
Lizanne Pessolano and husband Bob just might admit to a fascination with dragons and fun mythological creatures. They certainly didn’t need the popular HBO show to fan those flames.
The Pessolanos own Dragon Village, 97 Trench Road in Hopewell, formerly known to most as Dutch Neck Village, purchasing it about five years ago.
The village’s Spring for Mom Festival is the perfect reason to spend time strolling, sipping, and shopping with your own mom. The event will be starting at 10 a.m. on May 13 and 14.
The special events are just one of the things that help motivate Lizanne and her family to maintain and improve the village.
“I used to come out with my sisters, and I loved it,” she said.
The Harper family, which owns Dutch Neck Landscaping, owned Dutch Neck Village in its heyday, when it attracted thousands to the peaceful open fields surrounding the location. They later sold the property.
The Pessolanos had a vision to purchase the property and restore it to its former glory, back when the local Harper family made it one of the county’s must-see attractions.
“We wanted to bring it back to its former glory,” she said.
Today, the Pessolanos have made it a family affair, with her sister-in-law Sandi Pessolano, daughter-in-law Rachel and son Rocco both operating a few of the 10 stores that are on the property.
Wander through the grounds and visitors may enjoy the brightly colored buildings nestled into peaceful farmlands. The village even has a small water feature in it, where they hope to stock koi fish soon.
Not so peaceful with the multitude of colorful dragons dotting the property? The queen of the dragons would be “Dotty,” a sculpture that can breathe fire via a propane tank in her belly. Dotty is the work of Alloway artist Michael Williams, a welder who created it from scratch for the Pessolanos.
New shops that are scheduled to open soon include Nutty for Crafts, which will sell holiday items and various crafts and Bee Cool for Honey, which will offer locally produced honey, and beeswax-related items.
Residents who recall the peach or strawberry festivals once held on the grounds will be happy to know that the family has a full itinerary of events lined up for spring and summer.
It wasn’t a pretty sight more than five years ago when they wandered around the abandoned property.
“There were Corona bottles all over the place, and weeds out of control,” Lizanne said. “It was a nightmare out here, just to keep up with [maintaining] the basics.”
The family is working on bringing more flowers to the village, adding that Cumberland County 4-H will be on site almost every weekend.
The Village is open only on weekends, but you may find family members hard at work there most days of the week, keeping everything in order.
They also hope to open a wedding venue on the site of the former DeCou Peach farm as a special events business.
“We have to cross some t’s and dot some i’s to get it open,” she said.
Let’s Go Shopping—The businesses located inside Dragon Village are:
- The Whimsey Hut sells holiday items, seasonal décor, gifts, and antiques.
- Black Feather Farmhouse sells wreaths, candles, signs, and specialized laser printer designs.
- The Blend and Brew, a coffeehouse that also sells tea and smoothies. It is operated by Lizanne’s daughter-in-law Rachel Pessolano.
- The Sweet Stuff, a candy shop that also sells toys and skateboards. It also features a fun “build-your-own stuffed animal” option that is popular with children. The shop is operated by her son, Rocco Pessolano. It also has a free children’s book library.
- Rocco’s Rcade has old-style pinball machines, air hockey, claw machines and little mechanical rides for young children.
- Bunny and Bubs sells soap, lotions, and candles.
- Dragon Treasure, operated by Chris Whitney and Bella, sells homemade jewelry, upscale handbags, crocheted blankets, and clothing.
- The Fox and the Wolf, run by Serena Star, is a photography studio that also sells books, journals, incense, jewelry, tarot cards and more.
- Kahoun Kreations sells tumblers, mugs, jewelry, signs, decals and more.
- Luna of Willow Haven offers candles, oils, crystals and polished stones, gifts, and metaphysical self-care items.
During special events, the Pessolanos bring out their trackless train. It circles the village, driven by an Alloway Township man who dresses up like a train engineer. The children love it, and the rides are free of charge.
“All of the people who come in say they’re glad it’s open again,” said Lizanne. “It’s a lot of good memories, it really is. People do love it, they really do.”
During the holidays, the village is all decked out for the season. “People come in and tell us they remember it as kids. They’re just thrilled to death that it’s open again.”
Dragon Flight Night, an event that features tarot cards, readers, candles, oils, and crystals, is scheduled for 7 to 11 p.m. on May 19, Pessolano said.
“It is going to be mystical, magical things,” she said, adding the event is coordinated by her daughter-in-law Rachel.
Visitors who explore the village are bound to run into some of the shop owners, including the Fox & the Wolf’s owner Serena Star, an artist and photographer. Star decided to stay when she first stumbled upon the location.
“I am very much into fantasy and fairy tales,” said Star, surrounded by jewelry that she handcrafted—not to mention the dragon figurines. She has her degree in photography, has fun taking photos of people or couples dressed in costumes, an artistic endeavor that serves her woodland fantasy and her business plan. Her specialty also includes vintage photography and pin ups.
Next door, Linda Conner owns Luna of Willow Haven, who started as a vendor during special events. The shop she now operates sells all sorts of magical items, including crystals, polished stones, sage and various herbs. She, too, loves the peaceful vibe that flows through the village.
“It’s magical here,” she said with a smile.
Lizanne and Bob Pessolano’s son, Rocco, operates an arcade (sorry, R’cade—get it?) as well as the local coffee shop, with wife Rachel.
Recently, Rocco was hard at work on the small pond and water feature near the coffee shop. It has been a long road repairing and restoring the village to its former glory, Rocco said.
The pond was pretty much destroyed when they arrived and began work. Today, Rocco is making plans to work on the nearby arboretum.
Also, the family hopes to attain all the permits to get a fully operational renaissance fair at the village, complete with jousting competitions, he said.
Dragon’s Event Lineup
Local residents who want to stroll the village will find it open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The former Dutch Neck Village restaurant is now used as a rental hall, where visitors can hold special events such as birthdays and showers.
- Spring for Mom, May 13 and 14
- Dragon Flight Night, May 19
- Strawberry Festival, June 10 and 11
- Coffee and Chrome Car Show, June 18
- Renaissance: Pirates and Mermaids, July 8 and 9
- Christmas in July, July 22 and 23
- Peach Festival, Aug. 19 and 20
- Fall Festival, Sept. 23 and 24
- Halloween Village: Witches and Sorcerers, Oct. 21 and 22
- Small Business Christmas, Nov. 25–26
- Renaissance Christmas, Dec. 2 and 3
For more information on Dragon Village, visit shoppesatdragonvillage.com.