Lafayette Hotel hosts annual Teddy Bear and Doll Show

MARIETTA – The 25th annual Teddy Bear and Doll Show brought memories from the past for many, with over 20 presenters of past collectibles from stuffed animals of all species to dolls and accessories.

Held at the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta on Sunday, the show saw a good crowd, particularly picking up after church and lunch in the early afternoon, organizers said.

“This year’s show was dedicated to Ken Yenke, a well-known and loved teddy bear appraiser and collector that we have worked with for 18 years,” said show coordinator Anna Vukovic.

The yearly event not only brings out collectors, toy and doll enthusiasts, and first-timers, but also the ability to raise money for a local cause.

“Exhibitor fees, ticket sales and raffle profits go towards the Marietta Area Teddy Bear Fund. This fund allows teddy bears to be given to children from six months of age to 12 in several area hospitals,” she said.

Due to the success of the program, teddy bears are now not only being distributed to children at Marietta Memorial Hospital but also the Belpre campus as well as Selby General Hospital.

“Last year, I was able to buy provide 1,551 stuffed animals to the hospitals. They’re also occasionally given to seniors that are confused or lonely and in the hospital as well. Whether old or young, seeing a warm, fuzzy stuffed bear they can hold and take home makes all patients light up,” Vukovic said.

Over 20 exhibitors from all over the Northeast – including Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan – attended the event to sell and show their respective collections as well as to re-connect with friends.

“This event has really created a circle of friendships,” said Brenda Yenke, a bear appraiser and collector. “It’s a neat bond to have, not only with collectors, but people that attend shows year after year. It’s really neat to see little ones that attend then all of a sudden they come back and are all grown up.”

Yenke, who started collecting in the 1980s with her late husband Ken, not only sold and showed mohair bears and other antique animals on Sunday, but also appraised bears. Her table was busy all day long whether by those looking to have their items appraised or by friends stopping by to reflect on her husband and his impact on the industry before his passing in 2014..

Others involved named the Teddy Bear Fund as to why they continue to attend every year.

“It’s so nice to be able to give children something they can hold onto … especially like heart patients or those that are scared,” said Sherida Ritterbeck, a teddy bear maker with Sherida’s Bears from Caldwell.

Ritterbeck displayed animals made of vintage fabrics from chenille bedspreads to neckties, even some made from army uniforms from the Korean War.

“I’ve been attending the show for over 10 years, and been making bears for 15,” she added, saying the animals were an assembly line process taking several hours each to create.

With pieces ranging from $5 to several hundred, there seemed to be something for everyone … particularly grandchildren.

Kay Spears, who originally bought a Lee Middleton doll for her eldest granddaughter, attended Sunday looking to add on.

“This is my first year attending. I wanted to see and possibly buy some of the last Lee Middleton dolls,” said Spears.

These collectible dolls were presented by the Parkersburg Art Center on behalf of Asunta Damron, former owner of My Favorite Things in Marietta.

“When (Damron) retired, she offered the rest of her dolls to us for use of fundraising,” said Abby Hayhurst, director of the art center. “We thought this show would be a fantastic opportunity for finding these dolls new homes.”

From life-like dolls to woolly mammals, exhibits showed an array of collectibles as well as 100-year-old plus antiques.

Margot Justice, owner of Windswept Farms in Little Hocking, displayed animals like lions made from the fur of alpacas she had on her farm.

“At one time we had 31 alpacas,” said Justice, although she has none on the farm currently but will in the spring. “All children deserve something cuddly, but especially those in the hospital. What the Marietta Teddy Bear Fund does for community kids and elders is amazing, it’s wonderful.”

From the hands of makers to those in area hospitals, it seemed as though even the littlest of heirlooms made lasting impact.

“My favorite story is that of the Gold Wing Road Riders, a group of motorcycle riders that deliver teddy bears,” said Vukovic. “I was talking with them before a ride once and all of a sudden, behind me, a loud deep voice said, ‘I still have my teddy bear you all gave me when I was little, and I love it.’ It was one of the riders. I just thought that was really neat.”

Vukovic said the stuffed animals, while simple and small, seem to make an impact and give patients something to keep them feeling loved and safe.