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Santa Claus

Since today is Christmas Day, I figured that it would be very appropriate to blog about The Doll and Teddy Bear Show that took place at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg, Maryland earlier this month.

I used to go to that show frequently. While the show, which is held about two or three times a year, has always had a huge emphasis on vintage dolls prior to 1960, I remember that the show had tables that were devoted to more recent dolls from my own childhood (such as Beautiful Crissy, Barbie, and Dawn) as well as newer dolls from recent years. I even remember seeing a table or two selling Asian ball jointed dolls.

I have lots of memories of going to those shows, starting with the couple of times I attended doll meet-ups at the Gaithersburg show that were organized through the Den of Angels forum where we all carried our Asian ball-jointed dolls around the show as we browsed the various vendor tables.

It was at one of these shows in September, 2005 where I found a vintage Velvet doll that was partially clad and had eye mold. I purchased her for only $10 then went to another table that sold vintage doll clothes and purchased Velvet’s original dress with a pair of shoes in her size for another $10. I managed to get rid of the eye mold and restored Velvet to her original glory. I took photos of what I did at the time. I later wrote a post about what I did back in 2010 and that post still remains among my more popular posts of all time.

At another show I found two vintage circa-1940s dolls that were totally disheveled and they were on sale for only $3 each. I purchased both of them and I turned one of them into a Little Red Riding Hood doll that I later sold on Etsy. (I’ve since misplaced the other doll but I’m hoping that she’ll eventually turn up once I get really serious of decluttering my home once and for all.) It was at that same show where I had unfortunate encounters with vendors whose hearts weren’t clearly into their profession of selling dolls.

The last time I went to a show was in 2011, when I purchased a couple of adorable outfits that were perfect for this doll that I had recently purchased. But then my hip problem became so acute that I had to have surgery followed by my husband leaving me abruptly just three months after my surgery. Then I spent the next few years dealing with the fallout from the hip surgery and divorce while adjusting to my new reality. (And that’s not to mention the crappy economy and the crazy politics that have gone on since an African American was elected to the White House for the first time followed by unlikely election of Donald Trump. But that’s a whole different series of blog posts that have nothing to do with the topic of this post.)

So it was 2017 and I found out online that another doll and teddy bear show was being held in Gaithersburg in early December. I hadn’t gone in six years so I was ready to visit again. I remember that the December show was usually the biggest one. The show’s organizers would rent more space than usual and it would be filled with lots of vendors and lots of dolls and teddy bears. I was looking forward to seeing some eye candy. My attitude was that I would purchase a new doll and/or doll clothes only if such items fit in with my tight budget but, otherwise, I was only there for window shopping with no anticipation of buying anything new for myself. I wasn’t disappointed because there were tons of eye candy and I took tons of photographs to prove it.

There were plenty of Christmas-related dolls and teddy bears for sale but I found one vendor table that had a Hanukkah menorah on display.

The most memorable booth was the one that sold Lenci dolls. The most notable thing about these dolls is that Dare Wright used her own Lenci doll in The Lonely Doll book series. I found them to be very lovely to see in person.

I really loved the expressive look on their faces.

Lenci even made a Madonna and Child doll.


Many of the outfits on these dolls are very exquisite.

The only thing about Lenci dolls is that the original company went out of business in 2002. As a result many of these dolls are collector items and they are definitely not cheap. Many of the ones I saw on sale cost thousands of dollars. The cheapest Lenci doll I found was a tiny doll that was less than one inch tall and that was on sale for a whopping $75.

The show had plenty of miniatures on sale that were made for dollhouses.

I even saw hand-painted clothespin dolls at that show.

I saw American Girl dolls on sale that were even cheaper than buying a new doll at the American Girl Place store.

I found two Barbie dolls that were made to resemble Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance from the famous “Job Switching” episode of the TV sitcom I Love Lucy. (That’s the one where Lucy and Ethel get jobs working in a chocolate factory only to have their stint be short-lived.)

One table had a variety of doll parts in a variety of sizes available for sale. It would be great for anyone who was looking for a part for an old doll.

Since the show was known as The Doll and Teddy Bear Show, it was natural that there were plenty of bears there, as well as other types of stuffed animals (such as rabbits, and dogs).

There were plenty of Santa Claus dolls available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Some vendors had those reborn baby dolls which look very lifelike.

I found some odd things on sale at that show, such as this vintage children’s book called Beloved Belindy. It was written by Johnny Gruelle, who was the original creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. With the Aunt Jemima/Mammy-style illustration on the front cover, I can see why Beloved Belindy is more obscure today than Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy.

I saw a couple of Native American kachina dolls on sale at one table.

I vaguely remembered when I was a very young child, there was a TV show called Julia, which starred Diahann Carroll. That show is remembered today as the first TV show to depict an African American woman in a non-stereotypical role. (The main character worked as a nurse.) I remember some kids in my elementary school had Julia lunch boxes but I never realized that a Barbie-sized doll was also released until I went to that show.

I saw a couple of other dolls based on the main characters in the TV shows The Flying Nun and I Dream of Jeannie.

I saw this one vintage Mickey Mouse doll.

There were plenty of vintage Barbie dolls but the ones that still had their original boxes were expensive.

I saw some vintage dolls that were based on Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

I saw a set of vintage Dionne Quintuplets baby dolls. I have to admit that they are adorable to behold as long as you’re willing to overlook the sad real-life story of what happened to those girls behind the dolls.

I found these bottles of dollhouse-sized perfume and cologne to be totally cute.

I found this sign announcing that a family-owned business will close down in a few months after being in business for 72 years.

Most of the dolls and stuffed animals on sale were very expensive. I found one vendor table that sold something called Bling Dolls, which measure around six inches tall.

They cost $6 each but if you bought two or more, they would cost only $5 each. I might have considered buying two if it weren’t for the fact that all of the dolls had the same hairstyle, hair color, eye color, and skin color. That one doll type was cute but I wasn’t into buying the same doll with different outfits.

I basically bought only one Bling Doll. It was an impulse buy but she costs $6 and I found her to be quite cute.

There’s a keychain attached to her head, which means that she can either be attached to a few keys or clipped to a backpack.

Here’s a closeup of her face.

I took those last three pictures while I was eating lunch that I had purchased from the food stand at the show. A woman sat down near me and we started talking. Like me she had also attended previous doll shows and she mentioned that she felt it was smaller than she remembered.

As I was walking around the show I noticed that too. I remember the Christmas doll shows used to fill at least six large rooms. It would literally take me at least two or three hours to visit them all and I would be exhausted from visiting every single vendor table. This time I basically finished the entire show in less than 90 minutes. On top of it, I saw no Asian ball jointed dolls or even recent modern dolls from the 1970’s onwards. The vast majority of dolls on sale were made before 1960. The older dolls looked nice but they were very expensive. (It was common to see such dolls being on sale for over $100.) I still remember the day when I bought a wrecked Velvet doll for under $20 and I rehabilitated her. Or the times when I found some cool fabric that would be perfect for a doll outfit or a really neat doll clothes pattern that I wanted to try or a really interesting doll book that I decided that I wanted to read.

I don’t know for sure why it had changed so much. Maybe it’s the rise of sites like eBay and Etsy where people prefer to sell online than to actually transport their wares to a doll and teddy bear show. Maybe it’s the rotten economy where too many people have finances so tight that purchasing an expensive doll would be considered a frivolous luxury that they literally can’t afford. Whatever the reason, this show didn’t really have the little surprises that used to amaze me so much and were so relatively affordable that I ended up making impulse buys. The only surprise that really came close was that $6 Bling Doll I purchased. She’s a cute find but I still remember the show’s better days in the past.

The only fringe benefit of going to a smaller show is that I still had time in the afternoon to check out a flea market that was also held on the grounds of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds but it was located on the other side from where The Doll and Teddy Bear Show was held. I ended the day by checking out a show that was held closer to my home and it was also where I ran into a lot of my friends. I’ll write about those two events in a separate post.

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One Saturday I went to two events in one day. I just wanted to have some light-hearted fun in the wake of my recent appearance in divorce court just three days earlier so I packed my Canon Digital Rebel DSLR camera and rode on the Metro. There are a few photos I posted that are definitely not safe for work but they are placed towards the end of this entry. (The rest of the photos are all-ages friendly.)

First, I attended the annual Sakura Matsuri street festival in Washington, DC. Sakura Matsuri is the event that formally closes the weeks-long National Cherry Blossom Festival. You know that you are at a Metro stop that’s closest to the festival because you’ll see people in costume like the ones in the next two photos.

Sakura Matsuri, Washington, DC, April 13, 2013
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The Sakura Matsuri is usually very crowded and 2013 was no exception. I arrived late in the afternoon (just a couple of hours before it closed) and there were still plenty of people around. The weather was a warm sunny day as people walked around the festival just a few blocks away from the U.S. Capitol.

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The next photo show the official art for this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival, which was available for sale on posters and t-shirts.

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The cherry blossom trees in the Baltimore-Washington region were past their blooming peak on the day of the Sakura Matsuri but the street festival had plenty of cherry blossom flowers made from glass, paper, and other artificial materials.

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There were some special guests at the Sakura Matsuri, such as NASCAR driver Akinori Ogata and his racing car.

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There was plenty of live entertainment provided by performers from Japan.

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There was a variety of things to do or experience, such as live entertainment and hands-on demonstrations of video games like Dance Dance Revolution.

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The crowdest booths were the ones serving food and drink. (Naturally.) The next two photos are of the non-food booths that were the most crowded. One was devoted to providing free hair styling for men while the other was a McDonald’s booth that was giving away free tote bags.

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There were all kinds of Japanese imported products that one could purchase including candy, snacks, plushies, kitchen gadgets, dolls, action figures, and clothes. Some products were based on traditional crafts and images while others were based on characters in anime, manga, video games, and even Disney movies. In short, there was a little something for everyone.

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Like previous years, the highlight of the Sakura Matsuri are the numerous cosplayers at the event. Many of them created their own costumes from scratch. The hard work and creativity involved in making these costumes are astounding.

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When the festival began to show signs of closing down, I hopped back on the Metro to the Rosslyn Metro station. I decided to check out another special event that was being held. The Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia was the venue for a special party to celebrate Yuri’s Night. When I first learned about it, I thought about my ex-husband because he works at NASA and it was through him that I first learned about the existence of Yuri’s Night

I also had to make a difficult decision for the evening of April 13. Someone from my support group for people who are separated or divorced was throwing a party at her home complete with a bonfire and I got this notice about the Yuri’s Night event. I ultimately decided to go to the Yuri’s Night event because the e-mail I received sounded really promising. There would be a bunch of people dressed as robots. There would be a burlesque performance. There would be a couple of dances. There would be a robot-themed art exhibit. There would be a special sale of smaller science fiction-themed works of art done by local artists that one can buy that night and carry home. There would be continuous showings of cheesy science fiction movies from the 1950’s and 1960’s. I got seduced by the promised glitz and I decided to go there instead of the other party.

In retrospect I have to admit that there are times when I wished I had gone to the other party instead. That’s because I didn’t know anyone at the Yuri’s Night event while many of the other attendees went with their friends and socialized at times. While the shows and bands were pretty awesome, I felt lonely in a crowd. So my big lesson in my still relatively new foray into the single life is that it’s better to go to a less-splashy event where I knew people than to go to a splashy event like Yuri’s Night where I didn’t know anyone. From now on, if there are any scheduling conflicts between a splashy event and a less-splashy event where I know my friends would be there, I’ll pick the latter. (The only exception to that rule will be if I know in advance that my ex-husband and his girlfriend are going to the same party where I know my friends would be there.)

At least the Yuri’s Night event at the Artisphere wasn’t a total bust for me. There were plenty of interesting stuff for me to photograph, starting with the skyline of late afternoon Arlington.

Yuri's Night, The Artisphere, Arlington, Virginia, April 13, 2013

There were plenty of signs pointing to the venue of Yuri’s Night.

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There were also plenty of tulips and other spring flowers already in bloom.

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But then I came across other flower patches that surrounded tree trunks that were covered in colorful crocheted pieces.

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I began to notice that there were tree trunks covered in these crocheted pieces.

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As I walked around the area, I found crocheted pieces hung and strung everywhere.

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I walked around until I came to this giant metal sculpture that’s in the middle of a median strip where I found the culprits responsible for hanging the crocheted pieces everywhere. A group of people were busy trying to cover both the sculpture and the surrounding garden with as many crocheted pieces as possible before sunset.

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I walked around the streets of Arlington to kill some time before the start of Yuri’s Night at the Artisphere. I arrived at the event just in time for the start. The Atomic Mosquitos played a set while scenes from cheesy 1950’s era science fiction movies played in the background.

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Once the performance ended we were ushered out into a general area where we had a choice of either socializing or checking out the activities that were going on.

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There was this trivia contest that used Rock Em Sock Em Robots. Basically someone would ask prospective contests a single trivia question related to science, space, science fiction, Yuri Gagarin, or similar topics. The first two people to get the right answer would then battle each other using Rock Em Sock Em Robots. It was a delightfully silly contest that was also broadcast on a wall so people wouldn’t have to crowd around the Rock Em Sock Em Robots to see the entire action.

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In the Artisphere’s WIP Gallery there was a show featuring robot art called Voltron’s Corpse that will be on display through May 4. This particular exhibit has gotten the attention of Wired magazine.

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There were vendor tables set up that sold smaller space-themed arts and crafts that people could purchase and carry home with them.

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There was an I Dream of Jeannie-themed kissing booth.

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Even though the event was opened only to adults over 21, there was a Moon Bounce House that anyone could use. (I saw people go in and out of it.)

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There were all kinds of eye candy at the Artisphere that night, which included not only funky decorations but also people who arrived in robot costumes.

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At one point there was another live performance by the band Dance for the Dying.

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There was also a burlesque show called "The Search for Drinkbot." That show was the most packed with standing room only crowds (which was exacerbated by the fact that there weren’t any chairs in the room where the show was held). It was a challenge to take pictures over people’s shoulders at times. There was a thin science-fiction plot but one didn’t need to follow that story to enjoy the entertainment. Some of the photos I took at that show are definitely NSFW.

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There was more to Yuri’s Night including another set by Dance for the Dying, the second part of "The Search for Drinkbot" burlesque show, continuous showings of various science fiction movies, a Celestial Costume Contest, another round of the Rock Em Sock Em Trivial Tournament, and a Lunar Dance Party. I ended up leaving at the relatively early time of 10 p.m. mainly because I was tired from going to the earlier Sakura Matsuri street festival and standing on my feet for the first part of the burlesque show. I also grew frustrated at seeing people socializing with each other and I felt left out because I didn’t know anyone at that event. (Which really made me regret not going to the other party with my friends from my weekly support group for people who are separated or divorced.) At least Yuri’s Night provided lots of eye candy and I got some pretty decent photos from that event.

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