FREMONT - A show at the Sandusky County Fairgrounds yesterday yielded a bumper crop of customers eager to check out the tractors, combines, plows, and other farm equipment.
But these items had little use on a farm. All were toys.
About 3,000 people are expected to attend the 22nd annual toy and doll show that continues today in Fremont, where antiques and collectibles from about 80 dealers in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Tennessee, Georgia, and Illinois fill nearly every inch of 235 tables in three buildings at the fairgrounds.
"It's the biggest toy and doll show in Ohio," said Sandy Overmyer of Fremont. She is one of the organizers of the show. Her husband, Tom, was active with the show for years; he died just weeks before the show last year.
Some tables were crawling with Caterpillars, and other displays were thick with Deere - it seemed as though the buildings were awash in a sea of green and yellow from the thousands and thousands of John Deere items, including thimbles, marbles, blankets, and ball caps.
Mary Barber and her son Ken Kinker of Perrysburg were selling pillows, place mats, table runners, napkins, and pillow cases - all made from fabric that featured John Deere equipment.
T.J. Hinkle of Kansas, Ohio, took some teasing from his cousin James Hammer of Burgoon, Ohio, about his favorite John Deere toys.
"I prefer International red, but he has to like that ugly green stuff," said Mr. Hammer. Their families collect farm toys, they said. "Yeah, sometimes your dad buys old stuff and you break it," said Mr. Hinkle, but Mr. Hammer shrugged and said that sometimes he likes to "play with the stuff."
To the disappointment of avid collectors, some of the much-sought-after tractors and other farm toys showed signs of wear and tear - in other words, children had played with them.
Bob Bergefurd of Fremont was searching for the right-sized steering wheel for an old toy tractor. His son Brad broke the toy while playing with it years ago. Carrying a parts catalogue and his wish list, the father checked out bins of parts, such as plastic brake drums and tiny tire chains, for toy tractors and other farm equipment at Chuck Burkholder's Midwest Parts & Decals table.
The dealer from Onsted, Mich., "is a good supplier," said the elder Mr. Bergefurd, who volunteered to work at the toy show years ago. At that time, he said, proceeds from the event were donated to FFA clubs because so many FFA members pitched in to help.
Today, the show is run by area residents, but a donation is made to the Clyde, Ohio, FFA. And members of that organization assist with various tasks at the show.
When the show started more than two decades ago, it focused on farm toys, but the ladies who tagged along with their husbands to the event complained that they didn't have anything to look at - or to buy, recalled Bob Siefke of Gibsonburg, an organizer of the show.
"Now we have a little bit of everything. A lady called me yesterday and asked if we were going to have any Barbies, and I told her, sure, we'd have Barbies," Mr. Siefke said.
Baby dolls, Barbies, tea sets, Christmas ornaments, and cookbooks (including one with a recipe for Chicken Wiggle Hot Dish) coaxed the women closer to display tables.
Some youngsters were drawn to tables scattered with items such as the scary "bloody horrible fingers" and the much tamer balls and jacks.
Colin Moser, 7, of Delta said that his grandparents Donie and Bev Fischer of Waterville Township collect farm toys.
"Some things they buy for me," said Colin, who had just purchased a toy disk chisel. "I have tons of tractors," he said.
At Rob Helle's display area, Gary Gottfried of Tiffin and his wife, Linda, studied the advertising items that the Dundee, Mich., dealer was selling. The couple were looking for pedal cars and hats with names of seed corn dealers or other farm-related businesses on them.
Years ago it seemed as though hats were given away by nearly every seed corn dealer, farm implement company, grain elevator, and fertilizer dealer around, but nowadays the farm freebies are getting scarce, said Mrs. Gottfried.
"They are harder to get. They aren't giving them away anymore," she said.
Bullet pencils, pocket ledgers, salt and pepper shakers, thermometers, pens, books of matches, coin purses, calendars, and ash trays were given away too, and now those items are sought after by collectors.
Some collectors have harvested hundreds of their favorite farm-related collectibles.
"I have 600 to 700 hats," Mr. Gottfried said.
- Janet Romaker