BENNINGTON -- Nostalgia proved to be the big draw for attendees at the annual Toy and Model Show and Auction at the Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Parish Center.
"Most people are interested in the toys of their past," said organizer Kevin Kees on Saturday afternoon, speaking of the hobbyists and collectors who make up the show's core audience. This past Saturday was the 15th event, and organizers said the show had only gotten bigger with age.
"It's mostly hobbyists and enthusiasts. Mostly people who share the hobby," said John Zink, a long-time volunteer and collector of model trains. "There are enthusiasts who come from far and wide," he said, in addition to local families and "curiosity seekers."
Net proceeds from the event have benefited a charitable organization or cause since the beginning. For the past decade, Zink said the beneficiary has been the parish that hosts the event, with the funds going toward supporting the church's food pantry and other homeless activities. Kees tallied 30 vendors (with 58 tables) this year, and over 300 paid attendees (not including children) through the door.
During the afternoon Saturday, he said the amount raised was "sure to exceed" last year's total of $2,800.
One vendor from Rutland said he had traveled to the show for the past three to four years in an attempt to "try to thin out my collection." While that may have been the intent, many found themselves walking out with more than they bargained for -- sometimes after successful haggling. Merchandise at the show includes antique toys, model cars and trains, sports memorabilia, and genre items from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Model cars and trucks predominate, and were stacked along all four parish walls.
"It's the car show, enclosed in a building and with little cars," said Zink.
Tracing the event back to its origins, Kees said the model and toy show came about during a car cruise-in at the local Pizza Hut 16 years ago. "Two people were into model trains," he said, among that group of (full-scale) car collectors. "So we did it."
A vendor from Connecticut, Jerry Cabrera, said he brought "whatever fits in a Hyundai Accent" to the show. Cabrera's table included stacks of model cars, "and promotionals," seemingly more than an Accent could account for.
"So your father bought a 1961 Wrangler at the dealer," said Cabrera, explaining the distinction between model and "promotional" to the uninitiated. "And they said, here's (the identical model) for the son to play with." While those replicas are still available, they are no longer considered promotional.
"Now they cost $25."
Cabrera said Saturday would be his eighth year at the show. "Everyone is friendly, of course. And you find stuff to buy and meet old friends," he said. "There are a lot of repeat customers over the years."
"This does something for the community," said Zink. "It does something for the church. And it's something you enjoy doing." Zink said parishioners from Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales and also St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in North Bennington volunteered to run the show. In addition to vendors, there were also auctions, with some of the lots donated, and also model contests and diorama displays.