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babyland patch

The Cabbage Patch Dolls literally come up out of the patch wanting to be picked. PHOTOS BY MELISSA AND MIRANDA LOWRIE

Doll buying is different than you remember

Canoe Kids

  MelissaLowrie2110 150
  Melissa Lowrie

By Melissa Lowrie

In the ’80s, most girls were living in a pre-American Girl world. We had shoulder pads, big hair, Prince on the Walkman and Cabbage Patch Kids.

The soft, squishy dolls were obscenely popular then, and in spite of our changing culture, their popularity shows no signs of relenting.

Art student Xavier Roberts of Cleveland, Ga., started the phenomenon in 1976, when he created his first soft-sculpture piece. He soon developed a marketing concept for a line he called Little People … and quickly found parents would happily pay a $40 “adoption fee” for one of his original dolls at craft fairs.

babyland exterior  
Babyland General sits on 650 acres in Cleveland, Ga.  

Roberts incorporated Original Appalachian Artworks, Inc. and opened Babyland General Hospital to the public in 1978. The well-documented success of the line suggests people were paying as much as 100 times more than the original fee to re-adopt a doll.

In 1982 the company signed a long-term deal with a toy manufacturer to produce replicas of Roberts’ sought-after dolls. Little People becomes Cabbage Patch Kids. Boom.

By the end of 1983, almost 3 million Cabbage Patch Kids had been adopted, and the demand hadn’t been fully met. The success carries through the decades with help from behemoth Toys “R” Us and rabid parents.

Fast-forward to 2008, when the new Babyland General Hospital opened on 650 acres in time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Cabbage Patch Kids licensing program. The impressive 70,000 square foot facility in Cleveland is not only an adoption center but also a tourist attraction and massive retail store.

 

babyland newborn   babyland babies

Newborn Cabbage Patch babies come with vital
information, including birthdate.

 

There are plenty of babies up for adoption at
Babyland General.

Perhaps because the ’80s are on my mind, but driving up to Babyland General, I was reminded of Southfork. If you didn’t watch “Dallas,” I can’t help you. Anyway, this place is large and white on a beautiful piece of land with a view of the mountains. (The 11-year-old in the car said it looked like the White House … keep in mind he’s never actually seen the White House.)

Upon entering the building, we were greeted by a nurse asking us to sign in. It’s free admission for all at Babyland, suggesting guests will likely end up making a purchase.

There are a lot of dolls. New, old, small, large, and with every eye/hair coloring possible. There are also doll clothes, accessories and every imaginable stroller, blanket, toy, pacifier, Halloween costume on Earth. If you’ve ever been in a Babies “R” Us and felt a bit overwhelmed, this was a mini-version. This place was made for a little girl and grandma outing.

Beyond the retail, there is a nursery and a cabbage patch where you can pick a doll. They grow in the cabbage patch, you see, and literally push up from the ground. A “nurse” walked by while we were looking through the patch and said, “When they start moving it means they want you to pick them up.”

  babyland salon1
 

Cabbage Patch Dolls get the full salon treatment.

There is also a little station with salon chairs where the dolls can sit and get their hair styled. If any of these things, besides the patch, are reminding you of the American Girl phenomenon, you’re not alone.

American Girl has a Bitty Baby Doll line along with regular-sized dolls. The closest retail space is North Point Mall in Alpharetta where you can find all a doll and her little girl could ever want. There is also a cafe, complete with doll chairs.

The price points are different, but so are the dolls. A Cabbage Patch “adoption fee” is around $70 and American Girl dolls are in the $115 range. If your daughter or granddaughter is into American Girl, there’s no going back. (Don’t worry, however, the doll phase is short.)

Both Cabbage Patch and American Girl have stood the test of time. According to www.americangirl.com, more than “27 million American Girl dolls have been sold through the company's catalogue, retail stores, and website since 1986.”

Whatever your girl is into this Christmas—supposing it’s still dolls—either of these choices will make for a fun outing. Check out the websites for additional information and hours: www.cabbagepatchkids.com and www.americangirl.com.

Wherever you end up, have a great time with your Canoe Kids. Happy Holidays!

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