Festival of Steiff

Festival of Steiff

Carter, Laura

On the eve of September 3, 2004, at the Radisson Hotel in Plymouth, Massachusetts, something magical took place. A giant polar bear stood waiting in the hotel lobby, while a splendid peacock, its bejeweled tail feathers fanned wide, watched over the entranceway. On the ground floor, from the shadows of an indoor foliage display emerged a rhino, some monkeys, and a gigantic lion. All were ready to greet participants in Festival of Steiff XIX (FOS), hosted yearly since 1985 by Beth and Ben Savino of The Toy Store in Toledo, Ohio.

The theme of this year’s festival, “Steiff By The Sea,” underscored the event’s new Plymouth Harbor location. Steiff North America had told the Savinos it would be better able to help the show if it were held closer to its headquarters in nearby Raynham, Massachusetts. Wanting to place the event in a more accessible, attractive setting, the Savinos took the plunge, and the result was a resounding success. Steiff enthusiasts of every stripe flocked to Plymouth from all over the globe for three funfilled days of all things Steiff.

This year’s FOS itinerary was packed with wonderful activities for attendees. Friday afternoon, Steiff North America hosted a tour of its Raynham headquarters, giving visitors a chance to meet the staff and take advantage of a delicious buffet lunch. In the distribution center, Steiff factory artisans from Germany busily airbrushed and finished items from the collection, which were then available for purchase. After watching a video presentation on the history of the Steiff Company, visitors could wander down the hall to the sample product room to view items from the 2004 collection.

The highly anticipated Steiff auction took place later that evening and boasted a diverse selection of pieces for sale, including some big-money items such as a center seam Steiff bear and a Steiff Black Football Player doll, each of which sold for $5,500. Before bidding began, tribute was paid to outgoing Steiff NA President Martin Frechen, who will be replaced by Jim Pitocco.

Saturday morning, the salesroom doors were opened, with dealers offering a sumptuous array of rare and beautiful Steiff pieces, all waiting to find new homes. In the hallway outside the salesroom, the world’s oldest teddy bear, the PB 28, could be seen, along with other pieces from the Steiff archives. Luncheon was followed by a series of presentations from Byran Baldwin, Chuck Steffes, and Karl Gibbons of The Teddy Bear Museum of Naples, Florida. That evening, a New England clambake was held.

At the Sunday breakfast, Friedhelm Brandau, President of Margarete Steiff GmbH, gave a short presentation on the new $12 million Steiff Museum being constructed near the factory in Germany. Afterward, a “Who Wants To Be A Steiff Millionaire?” quiz show was held, with lots of Steiff prizes given away.

FOS 2004 gave Steiff lovers an event to remember for years to come. In 2005, Festival XX will again be held in Plymouth, and promises to be one Steiff event you should not miss!

Copyright Ashton International Media, Inc. Jan/Feb 2005

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