Tired of acting your age? Then make a stop at the National Farm Toy Museum, where everybody's a kid again.
Located in Dyersville, Iowa (about 25 miles west of Dubuque), the museum is home to more than 30,000 to-scale toys produced by three Dyersville manufacturers: the Ertl Company, Scale Models, and Spec-Cast.
A multimedia show, film, exhibits and dioramas help today's kids (and the rest of us) travel back in time. The history of agriculture is illustrated through displays on both floors of the handsome 12-year-old museum.
The history of toy manufacture is also highlighted: The first assembly machine used by the Ertl Company is on display, as is an actual tooling mold used to produce toy tractors.
Like any good museum, this one's focus extends beyond the basics. Look for Roy Rogers and Dale Evans models, construction equipment, fire engines, pedal tractors, race cars, trucks and banks. There's even a lifesize John Deere tractor display.
The National Farm Toy Museum is located at the junction of US Highway 20 and State Highway 136. Mailing address: 1110 16th Avenue Court S.E., Dyersville, Iowa 52040. Open daily year 'round, Monday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Admission: $4 for ages 12 and up; children ages 6-11, $1; under 5, free. Group rates available; inquire in advance. For more information, call (319) 875-2727.
KENDALLVILLE, IND., MUSEUM TAKES A CLOSE LOOK AT WIND POWER
Russell Baker makes a convincing case for the significance of the windmill in development of the Great Plains.
"Without windmills, barbed wire wouldn't have been needed," he says. "And the railroad windmills made it possible for steam engines to leave the river basins, and go to the High Plains." Baker is president of the board of the Mid-America Windmill Museum at Kendallville, Ind. The new museum (just opened in May) tells the story of wind power, from its earliest recorded use in ancient Persia to the wind turbines of today. Kendallville is a natural site for the facility: from 1860 to 1920, fully 47 windmill manufacturers operated within an 80-mile radius of Kendallville.
The museum features a collection of 16 working windmills on display outside (plans call for more, as funding allows). A 100-year-old handhewn barn houses exhibits, and an adjoining visitors' center is home to a gift shop, library (containing everything from old catalogs and sales brochures to information on federal renewable energy efforts), reception area and audio-visual facilities. Visitors can take in a 10-minute video, view displays on the history of wind power and windmills around the world, and wander through the outdoor exhibit area, a .2-mile walkway along a crushed-rock path. Benches and picnic tables dot the trail; picnickers are welcome. For some, the display stirs a gentle breeze of nostalgia.
"We have people who say they just want to sit and listen to the windmills," Baker says.
The Mid-America Windmill Museum is located at 732 South Allen Chapel Road on the east side of Kendallville, Ind. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays; and 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays, but open on holidays. Admission: adults, $3; senior citizens, $2.50; students, $1.50; children under 5, free. Group tours available by advance arrangement. Call (219) 347-2334 or (219) 347-0875 for more information, or check out the museum's Web site at www.midamericawindmillmuseum.org