Steve Pawlowski of Lansing, Ill., looks through a bin of dolls during the 19th annual Valparaiso Dolls and Friends show, held Sept. 8 at the Expo Center. | Post-Tribune photo/Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 15, 2013 6:22AM
Steve Pawlowski came to the 19th annual Valparaiso Dolls and Friends show in search of Madame Alexander dolls, which he’s been collecting since he worked at a toy store in 1982.
The Lansing, Ill., resident did not leave the Sept. 8 show, held at the Porter County Expo Center, empty-handed. He found a brunette “Welcome Home” doll, dressed in camo, released at the end of Operation Desert Storm.
It was Pawlowski’s first visit to the show, and it likely won’t be his last.
“I like it. It’s bigger than I had imagined, and there’s a good variety,” he said.
This year’s show hosted 52 booths, with vendors from across the Midwest, and was expected to draw 600 to 700 visitors, said Vera Johnson, the show chair and a member of Valparaiso Dolls and Friends, which puts on the event.
The show offered everything from collectible Steiff bears to antique dolls, as well as a wide array of clothes and other accessories.
Like Pawlowski, Kathy Orr of South Bend was new to the show, too — sort of. While she’d been coming to the show for many years to shop, this was Orr’s first time as a vendor. Her booth represented only a fraction of what she’s collected over the past 25 years.
“I tend to collect stuff that would have been during my own childhood. I’ve done it awhile. It’s time to clean out some closets,” she said.
Jenny Strickley of Hobart held a grocery sack with bare plastic doll feet sticking out. It was a Revlon doll, she said.
“Basically, I got her slip and her hose and her shoes. I’m going to make her a new dress and keep her,” she said.
Strickley, who’s been coming to the show for at least 10 years, also bought some crocheted clothes for her granddaughter’s Barbie doll. She often comes to the show to look for a particular doll she had growing up in the early 60s, a baby doll with a pixie haircut.
Sometimes she finds shoes or other accessories for her collection.
“It brings back childhood memories. That’s the great part,” she said.