Sunday, October 12, 2014

Dragon, moose and other wildlife

What could be better than a crisp autumn day when the leaves are turning and the sun is both cheerful and warming? And what better way to celebrate such a day than to get out of the house for a half-planned, half-spontaneous adventure!

Too big for the carousel, the moose welcomes visitors.
On Thursday Peter and I dropped the kids at school and then drove south toward Kellogg, Minnesota. Our target was Lark Toys, a family-owned enterprise that includes an enormous toy store, a museum of old toys, and, best of all, a wonderfully inventive hand-carved wooden carousel.

Baby goldfish swims after its parent.
Lark Toys began modestly about 40 years ago when Donn and Sarah Kreofsky, who had made and sold a few wooden toys at art fairs, found their line increasingly popular with retailers.  Facing enormous demand, they decided to open their own shop, and built it into the nation's largest independent toy store. Donn decided to create the ultimate wooden toy, a carousel. He drew the figures and roughed out the wood, and he enlisted a couple of talented local artisans to carve them and apply stain, rather than paint. The effect is charming. Our last visit was in the early 1990s, when the figures were on display in the studio awaiting a carousel platform.

I rode the deer; I hope ViMae will ride the dragon (above) soon!
This week I rode the carousel for the first time. The gears and cranks need adjusting, but the figures are clever and playful and the workmanship is gorgeous. I am usually partial to antique carousels, not new ones. But this one is exceptional, and as someone pointed out when I posted about it on Facebook, we must hope that one day it, too, will be an antique! 

The place is now owned and operated by another family, and it includes miniature golf, several llamas, a small cafe, and other delights that make it a destination much of the year.

Five eagles too injured to live in the wild live at the center.
About 15 minutes from Lark Toys is the National Eagle Center in Wabasha. It's right on the Mississippi River, at a spot where the water stays open all winter, so eagles gather by the hundreds. Even now, when only a few eagles native to the area can be spotted rising on the updrafts near the river, the center draws dozens of folks to its hourly presentations on these amazing birds. Lots of displays and activities are great for adults and kids alike. I hope to go back during winter months some year, but I'm glad we went when we did. It was a great way to spend a beautiful fall day together with my hubby.

Note: This dragon was my blog's header while this story about the Lark Carousel was posted.


J said...

You find the most intriguing places! These carved animals are magical. I can't imagine the treasures found in that toy store!
And I am appreciative of any business that shelters and protects animals.
Both of the places you visited are new to me. I'm glad you were able to enjoy and share them!

stephen Hayes said...

I love carousels. They're such a part of our history and I love that communities are restoring and preserving them.

Grandmother Mary said...

The carousel is wonderful, especially the dragon! You knew I'd love that best. Sounds like a great day with the grands and a great treasure to share with them.

DJan said...

You have ignited a love I once had for carousels. I would love to ride one of these, especially the dragon! :-)

Unknown said...

Those carousel animals are just amazing and with your love of carousels this must have been extra special -- they really are amazing! Hope you get to go back and see those eagles again sometime!

California Girl said...

what a phenomenal place and I've never heard of it. the carousel animals are so lovely. would like to see it some day. no wonder it's the largest indpt toy store in U.S.

Jayne Martin said...

Thank you for sharing this magical place with us. Wish I could visit. I just love carousels and those carvings are gorgeous.

Jeanie said...

Look at that glorious workmanship! Fabulous photos and I can't believe you got to ride it! What a wonderful time you shared!

And that eagle looks like he's ready to tear someone's head off! Glad it's not mine!

Red Shoes said...

I agree with J... you DO find the most intriguing places!!!

I would love to visit BOTH of those places!!

How have you been? I keep thinking about the retirement question you oncce asked me... this COULD be the year...


I hope all is going well with you!!


Sally Wessely said...

What a great day that must have been. I love carousels. The antique ones are such a treasure. Here is a link to some photos to the one in Pueblo, Colorado. I thought you might find it interesting. I love it because my grandparents rode it when it was new just after they were married. The history of the carousel is quite interesting.

I remember many happy times riding it when I was younger and even as a teenager. Now, my grandchildren delight in it.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Thanks for such an interesting blog! I shared with Far Guy..we are headed that direction in a few weeks...and now we know where to take a break! :)

AiringMyLaundry said...

What an awesome place!

Kate said...

I've been there many times and when my grandkids were small they often accompanied us. Terrific place!

troutbirder said...

One of our favorite stops along with the Eagle Center. More eagle by the hundreds will be migrating south in the next few weeks from northern MN and Canada and most will stop and winter over in southeaster Mn....:)


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