Bring on the bears – Lots to do at annual teddy bear convention |

Bring on the bears – Lots to do at annual teddy bear convention

Paying little attention to the teddy bear trollers coming down the long ramp of Miners Foundry, five woman clustered around a low wooden table Sunday afternoon as they concentrated intently on small balls of fuzz, which they pulled and poked with thin metal rods.

“Better?” asked Reene Abbott of Colfax, showing her ball to the others.

“It’s still kind of soft and squishy,” said out-of-towner Bobbi Sloan, pinching the creature’s nascent nose.

Again, Abbott twisted the rod, jamming the stuffing into the near nose.

“Is that okay?” she inquired.

This time, the nose passed the muster of instructor Darlene Bennett, a bear aficionado who traveled from Chowchilla to attend Nevada City’s 22nd Teddy Bear Convention, which was held this weekend.

“You’ve got to stuff the nose first and hard,” Bennett pointed out.

Under the patient watch of her husband, Ron, who spiritedly sported bear ears, Bennett was teaching the basics of bear making to the fledgling artisans, who included Grass Valley resident Vickie Phillips.

The class was only one of numerous teddy bear-related activities held this weekend in Nevada City at an event hosted by the American Victorian Museum

Bears – and humans who love them – could compete in a teddy bear circus, partake in the teddy bear picnic, purchase teddy bear paraphernalia, or dance to teddy bear music.

And they could meet with other teddy bear lovers, including bearmaker Connie Alexander, who moved to Nevada City nearly three years ago after falling in love with a house here when she was in town for the Teddy Bear Convention.

The convention owes its success to Charles Woods and Dorothy Darden, among others, who teamed up in 1972 to create what was then known as the Teddy Bear Picnic.

On Sunday, Woods bustled around the foundry, clad in a “Hairy Potter” sweatshirt, depicting a gardening bear.

Woods saved the foundry when part of it was set to be demolished in the early 1970s and used it for the American Victorian Museum, a “museum without walls,” Woods said.

Early picnics were success, attracting bear visitors from Italy, Germany, and Ireland, among other places, Woods said.

Since then, the convention has grown to its present size, which attracts scores of visitors from across the country.

This year, visitors were slightly down from previous years but sales were up, a museum spokeswoman said.

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