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Views and opinions: Gateway Mid-America hosts 37th toy show at Westport


The Gateway Mid-America Toy Show is advertised as “the best of all shows for toy collectors everywhere.” Held at the Sheraton Lakeside Chalet in St. Louis’s Westport Plaza in early February, this was the 37th annual show.

The show opened with room to room trading where collectors set up with their wares and visitors checked out the toys, literature and memorabilia and added a few items to their own collections. There were also ballrooms and conference rooms set up with more for collectors to peruse.

Aumann Auctions held a consignment auction that Saturday with more than 400 lots; some of the highlights included salesman samples like a Cuckler Manufacturing Co. “Steel Span” building with a wooden carrying case, and a Farris Furnace Co. No. 28 Standard furnace sample that also came with a case. Farris was located in Springfield, Ill.

Toys abounded, with precision and custom toys, like Fred Clark’s Custom Case IH 1844 and New Holland T7050 - and much more. That Saturday, visitors enjoyed the model and display contest.

This year Darrell Cox had a John Deere dealership with patio tractors set out front. Another layout had a detailed miniature bridge over a river, and there was also a beautiful winter scene that reminded collectors the season can be beautiful.

Scratch-builder Vernon White stole the layout part of the show with his trailers built with the assistance of life experience. He said he began working on toys 35 years ago: “I started out with wooden models.”

Purchasing kits from Toys & Joys, Vernon started building wooden cars, trucks and a circus train for his youngest daughter one Christmas. Around 1990, while he still worked in wood, he moved into making scratch-built 1/64 and 1/16 scale metal trailers. “I built basically gas tankers, milk tankers and low-boys.”

The model trailers he builds are modern ones. The reason he said he went with trailers was, “Smith Miller didn’t make trucks, so I thought I’d have a market, plus I had experience in real ones.”

Another eye-catcher at the layout contest was 9-year-old Peter Jarden’s cork barn that he built with the help of his grandmother, Renee Katich. The Gateway show is known for its model and layout contests, and this was the first time many of the visitors ever remember seeing a cork barn. It was an unusual twist on a farm setting. Such ideas may come easily to Peter, though, because he lives on a farm.

While his cork barn didn’t take home the first-place trophy, he did win second in the youth display category. Peter estimates there are about 1,000 wine corks in the display.

The Gateway Mid-America Toy Show is an annual event that takes place every year the first weekend in February. Mark your calendars next year to head to St. Louis to see what toys are for sale and what the modelers and builders have come up with in the 38th year of displays. Log on to for all the details.


Readers with questions or comments for Cindy Ladage may write to her in care of this publication. Learn more of Cindy’s finds and travel in her blog, “Traveling Adventures of a Farm Girl,” at