Monroe County Chooses...The Toys We Love

In years past, the Monroe County Local History Room (MCLHR) has put together a display depicting a 1970s living room during Christmas as well as a 1950s Christmas display, which were both very popular with the public, as the museum saw record breaking amounts of visits.  
Last year, museum staff put together a magical Christmas display featuring over 100 lit miniature houses and buildings from the Department 56 North Pole Holiday Village collection of the late Joan Cook, of Sparta. 
Director Jarod Roll’s original plan for this year was to put up a Christmas display focusing on a living room from the 1960s but decided to put off the idea for another year.
This past year, the museum marked the 40th anniversary of the Mariel Boatlift with an exhibit that included a photographic history from the Cuban refugee’s perspective. 
“Our last display was very serious and somber, and we wanted this new display to be bright and colorful and give the museum a totally different feel for our visitors in the spirit of Christmas,” Roll said. 
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum is currently open to the public by appointment only. Roll was concerned that if the museum put up a Christmas display it would limit the amount of people who would be able to view it.  
“Instead of putting up a display that was solely focused on Christmas, we wanted to come up with something that could be relevant all year long giving people a greater opportunity to see it,” he said. “People aren’t going to need to rush in to see the display, it will be up all year and there’s going to be plenty of time for everyone to see it. 
Roll and Museum Services Associate Hannah Scholze started to look for a way to interact with the community while settling on what the new display would be. The new exhibit titled, Monroe County Chooses...The Toys We Love, will feature top toys from the 1940s to the 1990s that were chosen by over 400 people who participated in a poll back in September.
“This was a way to interact with friends of the museum and help them still feel like they are a part of something, and it gave them a way to be here without actually being here,” Roll said.  
Different categories included plush, action figure, doll, board game, novelty toys, non-board games, creative minds, role play and outdoor toys, to name a few, gave poll participants numerous options in each category to pick some of their favorites while write ins were allowed as well.
In order to find out the winners in each category, people will have to visit the display themselves to find out if G.I. Joe beat out He-Man as the top action figure, whether or not it was Barbie or Strawberry Shortcake that crushed the doll competition or which board game or novelty toy do you think was chosen as the most beloved? 
There were some winners that came as surprise to Roll and Scholze, however, it should come as no surprise to anyone that a lot of these toys have been around for decades and even though the people who took the poll maybe from different generations with several decades between them, they may have played with some of the same toys.
“A lot of these toys can also still be bought brand new,” Roll said. “We wanted to do something that might stir up some nostalgia and bring back fond memories and that would cause people to leave with a smile on their face.”
Visitors won’t be allowed to touch any of the toys on display, but there will be some interactive toys as well as some fun surprises for visitors. 
“No matter what era they grew up in or what generation they are from, everyone is going to find a toy in this display that they recognize or can identify with,” Roll said. “It’s definitely going to bring back some childhood memories for people and we can’t wait to hear some of their stories.”
The new exhibit is nostalgic even for Roll and Scholze who lent a few of their own childhood toys to the display along with a few other individuals and organizations. 
The new exhibit will be opening today (Thursday) at the history room, located at 200 West Main St. in Sparta and will run through October of 2021 and admission is free.  
The museum is open to visitors Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. by reservation only. Please make a reservation by calling MCLHR at (608) 269-8680. 

Evans Print & Media Group

1302 River Rd.
P.O. Box 252

Sparta, WI 54656-0252

Office Number: (608) 269-3186
Fax Number: (608) 269-6876