1992 - Volume #16, Issue #1, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Kid size rural villageThey're not sure how it happened but Varlen and Fern Carlson's hobby of collecting farm antiques turned into a new on-farm tourist attraction that's attracted thousands of visitors during the first two years it's been open. According to all reports, this newest Iowa tourist attraction will be a big hit.
The kid-size village consists of 7 buildings - a la-size church, barn, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, general store, house and a railway station depot. Each building is authentically outfitted down to the finest detail with antique furnishings collected by the Carlsons during their travels over the past 38 years throughout the country and in Europe.
"We got started when we bought a small house at a farm auction to use as a playhouse for our grandchildren. We furnished it with things we had collected over the years, and then gradually added more buildings to house our collections. On May 1, 1990, we opened the village to the public charging a $4 admission. We plan to expand by adding more buildings, including an implement dealership, however we do not build a new building until we feel we have sufficient artifacts to make the establishment immediately authentic down to the finest detail," says Fern.
The Carlsons farm 950 acres and have a 4,000-hog farrow-to-finish operation. Their collecting started with Varlen's collection of full-sized gas engines and tractors. While attending antique tractor shows, Fern be-came interested in children's furnishings and salesmen's samples, which were often 1/2 to 2/3 size of the full-sized article.
The mini-house, for example, is furnished with a salesman sample stove (very rare), and antique children's furniture. Many half-size items are scattered throughout the house, including a mini telephone that actually worked at one time.
The kid-size barn is filled with small bales of straw and harness for Shetland ponies hangs on the walls. When they located a bunch of antique small school desks, they built a school, which is complete with a bell that can be rung with a rope.
One of the the most popular buildings is the general store which is fitted with a small antique heating stove and a kid-size roll-top desk. There's a small post office set up inside the store. As Fern gives tours of each building, she recounts the history of each item and where it came from.
The small church, complete will bell tower, is just big enough to hold a very small wedding party. A number of weddings have already been held at the site. The building has stained glass windows and a 19-key reed organ.
The village is open from May through October and again for a "Christmas stroll" for several weeks at the end of the year. Group and family discounts available. "We think it's one of the most unusual and interesting farm tourist attractions anywhere," says Fern.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Country Relics Little Village & Homestead, Varlen & Fern Carlson, 3290 Briggs Woods Road, Stan-hope, Iowa 50246 (ph 515 826-3491).
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