BY BART DOAN
Call it Christmas in March as the second oldest running toy show in the nation swept through the Westside over the weekend when the 35th annual Lafayette Farm Toy Show rolled into town.
The event was held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center and featured room trading, banquet sales, and displays covering thousands of toys to appeal to collectors, novice builders, and children.
“With the farm toys, it’s just like a big family,” said Alan Chesnut, who has run the Lafayette Farm Toy Show for four years. “It’s always a great chance to see all the people that we’ve gotten to know over the years and all the new toys that are coming.”
Chesnut got involved with the show 15 years ago as a vendor, but not originally with the intention that has led to where he is now.
“I had a woodworking hobby and so I went to a local show to sell my display cases and I had tractors that I had in the display case,” he said. “People wanted to buy those more. So I started making custom tractors, attended more of these shows, and then had an opportunity to start running it four years ago.
“If you’ve never been to one, you’re not going to expect the amount of toys you’re going to see. People are always amazed by the displays and the details of the custom built toys and miniatures.”
Offerings at the show range from common children’s toys to collector items that can cost thousands of dollars.
Chesnut said one of the unique aspects of the show is that people can request custom made toys from some of the 96 vendors who were present. The show featured toys from famous manufactures like Tonka and Ertle as well as puzzles, games, antiques, and more.
“If it has wheels on it, you’re likely to find it here,” he said.
While Chesnut said the culture is unique and many of the participants have made the event a part of their lives all 35 years, they still hope to grow the hobby to the next generations.
“Everybody knows each other,” he said of the culture. “We have children that become friends, and we make lifelong friends. One thing we’re trying new is to hold seminars for some of the younger guys, like teaching them how to build sceneries.”
He said the intricate toys often take hours to make individually, and he doesn’t know where the future of the hobby lies, only that it will continue to grow.
“It always goes toward the age of the collector,” he said. “It used to be that they’d collect the old tractors, but as new collectors come along, they want the newest kind of toys too. I can’t tell what’s going to happen down the road, but it’ll change as the age of the collector changes.”
For more information on the Lafayette Farm Toy Show, visit the website at lafayettefarmtoyshow.com.