Anyone who has encountered Carolyn Lauing-Finzer in Naperville is unlikely to have forgotten the experience.
Spend any time at all in the city and you might see her dressed as a butterfly, spider, flower fairy, gourd goddess or any of roughly 30 characters she has in her repertoire.
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Lauing-Finzer, 65, and a fifth-generation Naperville resident, has been educating and entertaining people for the past 40 years with a wide range of stories and costumes.
A member of the Girl Scouts for 46 years, she started telling stories around the campfire, often sharing traditional Native American lore while dressed in full regalia.
"If I dress in the theme of the program, it helps get everybody in the mood for it," she said.
She also volunteered for four decades at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, wearing various costumes during four seasons of programs, including dressing once as a bluebird, sitting in a children's wading pool, wrapped in grapevines to make it look like a nest.
She designs all her costumes on a shoestring budget and uses many found objects if she can.
"Nature, art and recycling have been a big part of me as a creative person," she said.
Gardening is a big part of her life. As well as an extensive garden at home, she tends to five community gardens around Naperville as a volunteer, including at Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery and the main post office.
"Gardens are so important to mentally refresh people, to spiritually renew them," she said.
Many of her costumed characters are woven into the garden theme. "The outdoors weighs heavily on my selection for costumes," she said.
She advertises through the Illinois Storytellers Guild and her audience varies. She tells her tales at garden clubs, schools, senior citizen homes and garden centers.
As an artist, she has five decades of involvement in studio, public and performing arts. She has been involved in many projects in Naperville, including painting sculptures to benefit the United Way and helping design a mosaic mural for the Century Walk public art project.
Lauing-Finzer has been married for 43 years and has two children and one grandchild.
Self-described as "eclectic and fun," she says she keeps in shape by gardening and shows no signs of slowing down.
She says her philosophy is simple: "To do is to be and to be is to do."