CARTHAGE — Organizers with the 22nd annual Four State Farm Toy Show, which was held Sunday at Carthage's Memorial Hall, made the announcement that this year's show will be the last.
"We have enjoyed it immensely and a lot of our vendors are reaching an age where they are wanting to retire now, some due to illness and actually some passed away," said Tim Bartley, a co-organizer of the show. "It is getting a little harder to find vendors. Younger kids nowadays, there are not as many of those that are interested in farming, the farm toy venue as in the past. We just decided that it is time for us to step aside."
Sunday's show was held from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. and had around 20 vendors showcasing toy farm tractors, equipment, wooden clocks, tractor manuals and other toys as well.
As far as the crowd over the years, Bartley said, "when it came from vendors, we had them come from as far as North Dakota, Texas, a long distance. For the actual customers coming in, it is mainly local people from pretty much the four state area, coming in to buy, sell, trade and look at everything."
It has been interesting over the years. Bartley, and co-organizer Don Polen and Polen's son, also named Don, have enjoyed the show. They will still collect items.
"It is fun to, we use to get a kick out of just talking to the farmers and when we are looking at a toy tractor, and you have someone standing there said, 'I drove that tractor when I was a young man or farmer,'" said Bartley. "Some of them (toys) are so detailed and intricate, it is interesting to look at. Some people who are not into farm toys are really fascinated by what they can do with some of these toy models. The other thing we enjoy, after 22 years, we have seen kids that came in knee-high and now they are six inches taller than us and some of them have their kids coming in and there are still some shows in the area that will still be going."
As far as why they have seen the decline in the show, Polen's son said, "I think the economy. Another item too is some of the family farms are being consumed by larger corporations, probably not having as much hands-on with that and I think that element might be leaving our heritage."
Bartley added another reason.
"One of the other reasons is 22 years ago, you could buy a shelf model tractor for $10 that was new," he said.
"Nowadays, that same new tractor is $30. And increasing prices that way does – and with the economy the way that it is – this is really not an essential thing. When people used to would buy three or four tractors for their kids, now they are buying one or none. We remember years ago when people were walking out of here with bags and bags of toy tractors, it slacked off a little bit that way too."
Page 2 of 2 - One of the vendors who has been with them since year one of the event is Gene Davis of Lamar.
"I had a parts business for farm toys, sold off the replacement parts," Davis said. "They needed a parts person whenever they started their show up. I knew one of the guys that was organizing the show, he worked in Lamar."
As far as how he got interested in the parts aspect, Davis said it happened years ago.
"I would go to yard sales, I would find these broken toys," he said. "So I would take them home, had a couple of big boxes in the basement of my house that I would put these toys in. One day, my wife came to me and said, 'either you or toys or both are going to go if you don't do something with them. They are starting to overflow the boxes down there.' These were good toys and I had visions of fixing them up. I had no plans on what I was going to do with them, but they would have a steering wheel missing or a broken wheel or something."
So he wrote to the Ertl Company (die-cast toys) and told them of his dilemma.
"That I was going to be kicked out of my house if I didn't do something about these," Davis said. "They sent me down a complete list of all of the parts. So when I got to inventorying the items I had and the parts, it was a lengthy order and so, I called them and told them, and they said, 'you just become a parts dealer.' I said what does that amount to. (They said) 'Well what does that amount to?' (They said) 'Well if you order $500 at the time, we will get you a 30 percent discount.' I said OK."
And he got to stay in the house.
The organizers said they would come to the show if someone else took it over.
"And if someone else is interested in putting one back here, we will be glad to come and enjoy it," Bartley said.