by Joseph DeGweck

Do you remember those many precious moments of many years ago, when you were freely held captive within the playful imagination of childhood? They are hard to forget! They are forever cherished! They are, without question, the moments and memories that have cultivated and nurtured our formative years of youth into the person that we are today! For ours was a generation blessed to exist within an era of time that presented us with the inspired moments and the ingenious resources that fueled our imaginations and guided our purpose into the world of enjoyable play and pleasurable fun. These moments of play and these resources of toys formed “the good old days,” we so often talk about with our children and grandchildren. What better time have we spent in our youth and adolescence, than at play? What better moments than those full of the anticipation and exhilaration displayed by a child when opening a birthday or holiday toy? It is perhaps the most natural and sincere event that I have ever been fortunate enough to experience and witness. A child’s innocent smile full of hope can instantly be transformed into tears of joy as their sodden eyes reflect within them the image of the toy they so much wanted. As their arms spontaneously rise over their heads; their hands clutching to their prize, never letting go. They race over to the giver with a hug that squeezes the love they share for one another into a single dynamic trapped within that moment of time that will be forever cherished. And so we have created a special memory near and dear to our hearts; never to be lost and never to be replaced.

I still remember a chilly Christmas morning shared with my parents, brothers and sisters. I was seven years old. As we took turns opening our presents, I held within my hopeful spirit of anticipation the wish for a certain present. It wasn’t among the ones I could see under the tree. Finally I got to my last present. Disappointment was growing and I knew that I needed to share that sense with only myself. As I unwrapped the paper covering this last gift, I found yet another box from a well known clothing store in downtown Buffalo. It was a Hengerer’s box. I knew that lying within would probably be another sweater or perhaps some real blue jeans. These were things I needed and real blue jeans were something that was “cool”. But it wasn’t that something I had hoped for. As I peeled back the tissue paper I found a “cool” pair of real blue jeans; Levi Strauss. “Wow!”, I exclaimed. I tried to make it seem as exuberating as I could under the circumstances; as my mother glowed with pride and gratitude or what she and my dad had been able to give us. I had to be happy. I had to be grateful. I was raised that way and that was my gift to them. As I lifted the blue jeans from the box, there it laid; my snub-nose 38 and shoulder holster. I felt a tear run down my face. I looked at everyone who knew what treasure was held within that box for this seven year old child, and I saw smiles, heard laughter and felt the love of a family like never before. All of a sudden the gift didn’t matter. Who I shared this moment with did! I couldn’t wait for my dad to come home from work that day. I was going to ambush him because now I was a secret-agent man. Ha! Ha!

Since that day there have been many such moments that I have shared with my own family. My daughter opening her first Barbie and my sons playing with their Fisher Price “Adventure People Rescue Team” are just a few. The hours of play and laughter far outweigh the minutes of argument and quarrel among siblings. As we laid on the floor of our living room or bedroom trying to fix a broken leg on a toy soldier or mend the collapsed floor of Barbie’s house or repair a broken axle on a “Hotwheel”, these are times that only toys can provide opportunity to happen. These are “the good old days”.

The Celebration

This month, After 50 News, would like to feature a local event that has contributed toward the preservation and perpetuation of toys. This event is “TOYFEST 2007”. Ms. Lynn Kinsella, for the past 12 years, along with the TOYFEST steering committee, which has accepted this challenge for the past 21 years, have worked adamantly to maintain this institution known as the TOYTOWN USA Museum located at 636 Girard Ave., East Aurora, N.Y. Twenty-one years ago, “a group of volunteers thought that it would be important for the area to have a toy museum” and so TOYFEST was started to be used as a “venue” to raise money to support that museum. Over the years it has grown from a local event into an event that draws people from all over the United States and Canada. Attended by about 75,000 people throughout the weekend, it offers a variety of experiences for all ages to share.

Each year crowds begin to gather along Main Street East Aurora in anticipation of a parade which features not only local marching bands, but also the Fisher Price pull toys. These are exact replicas of the toys that so many of us cherished as children. They were the original toys that entertained us in the past and continue to fascinate our childish spirit still today. From dogs to elephants and even a teddy bear these larger than life-size pull toys will make the event worth attending. This year the parade will start Saturday morning at the circle and march down Main Street, ending at the TOYTOWN USA Museum.

Also this year the rides and midway area will be located in Main Street Business area in order for our local businesses to become more involved. Many of them will be providing entertainment such as pizza spinning and music. Features on the museum grounds will include children’s entertainment, interactive activities, arts and crafts and even a tent sale. This year there will be a puppet show presented by our very own Mike Randall of Channel 7 News. For the past year plans have been made to place on exhibit at the museum of antique puppets. It has finally come to fruition with puppets being loaned to the museum by Melanie Zimmer of Syracuse and Jim Menke of Buffalo, N.Y. These are crafted hand carved exquisitely painted antique puppets and they will be on display for the next year at the toy museum.

Many other features will add to your entertainment during this two day event taking place on Saturday August 25th and Sunday August 26th. Ranging from an Antique Toy Show at the Immanuel Lutheran Church on Pine Street to a mime show and jugglers at the museum; there are activities for “all ages”. Sunday, West Herr East Aurora Buick Pontiac GMC Cadillac will sponsor a car show for those auto enthusiasts. There is a 5K and a 10K race on Saturday sponsored by M&T Bank, and on Sunday there is a TOYFEST bicycle race for all to participate.

The TOYTOWN USA Museum will be opened for all to view its treasures. These include the Fisher-Price Archives as well as a display which honors the history of hockey in Buffalo. There is a fully operational, miniature wooden replica of a Herschell Carrousel created by Charles Hunt and painted by Donald Miller. The original Promo the robot from “Rocket Ship 7” stands guard against the wall of the museum for all to observe as you return “back in time” with your family and friends.

“TOYFEST” which was started as a dream of establishing a museum for memories of childhood has evolved into much more. As Lynn so aptly states it, through the endless efforts of “so many local volunteers”, it has become an experience that “bridges the generation gaps” and “brings families together” to enjoy what is most precious to us all; our moments shared.

With this in mind, as summer begins to end, please join us in the fun and entertainment at “TOYFEST 2007” in East Aurora this August 25th and 26th. For more information you can either check out their website at or call the TOYTOWN USA Museum at 687-5151. Come and create the moments and memories for your children and grandchildren to cherish.

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