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Published: Thursday, 10/3/2002

It's a small, small world


Urban sprawl is measured by the inch in Smallville, U.S.A., one of the features of this weekend's Dollhouse and Miniature Exhibit at Toledo Botanical Garden.

The little burg - a one-inch to one-foot scale model covering about 1,050 square feet - has been growing for the last nine years through the efforts of the Toledo Area Miniature Enthusiasts, a group of about 35 area residents who sponsor the annual show. Jeanne VanderMeer, club president, says that the project began when members bought “lots” - half a ceiling tile - for $1 apiece on which to build their contribution to the community.

“I have a fish-and-chips stand. Somebody has an antique store and there's a general store and bakeries,” Mrs. VanderMeer says. There's also a gas station, museum, and saloons. A park has flowers, trees, and bushes that were made by members.

Mrs. VanderMeer formed the Toledo Area Miniature Enthusiasts in 1976. She had recently moved here from Cleveland, where she was a charter member of a miniaturing group, and she wanted to find other people in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan who shared her passion for creating and collecting dollhouses and scale miniatures.

She put an ad in the newspaper. The phone began ringing and didn't stop until 65 people had responded. The first meeting drew 35 people.

“At one point we had over 100 members,” she says.

Certainly this isn't a hobby for the impatient. Mrs. VanderMeer estimates that the Smallville project represents hundreds of thousands of hours of work.

Exhibitors also will be showing off their artistry and competing for awards in categories including dollhouses, room boxes, landscaping, dolls, holidays, juniors under age 16, and very small-scale projects that are half or quarter-inch to the foot - or less. “One lady made an RV in one-12th scale,” Mrs. VanderMeer says.

On Saturday, the public will be able to vote for People's Choice awards. A special trophy for excellence in craftsmanship will be awarded on Sunday, for the seventh year.

About 400 people are expected to attend the free exhibition.

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