Sunday, July 03, 2011

Teddy Bear Tour

I thought that a tour of the Vermont Teddy Bear factory might be a bit too juvenile for adults, but decided "oh, what the heck!" and I'm glad I did. Walking up to the crayon colored entrance I started having second thoughts, but motored on through anyway.
Once you pay your $3 adult ticket fee for the half hour tour you enter the world of all things teddy bear. Having decided to take the tour on Saturday, I missed out on the actual production line workers being there, but the young lady who led our guided tour provided a very entertaining way of "seeing" how the bears were made. The staff refers to the bears as if they were living creatures, which is a bit disconcerting at first, but soon becomes cute.

You first see the cutting room section, where the staff uses giant cookie cutter looking dies to cut out the bear parts. Would you like to follow along with us? Click here.Next you come to the section where the bears are sewn together. Originally when the assembly line was first created, the employees would have to sew the seams of the appendages and bodies inside out (to hide the seams of course) and then push the pieces outside in with their fingers, many, many times a day which left them with sore fingers and thumbs. That was when an ingenious employee came up with the "appendage inverter tool", which allowed the workers to place the inside out piece at the tip of the wand and then pull down on the open edge and voila'--a right side out piece. We also where shown how they blow the polyester fiber into the various parts and put the arms, legs and heads on with special brackets that allows the parts to move and actually get tighter if the arms, legs or head is pulled on rather than pulling out. The eyes are fastened in the same manner; if a child tries to pull the eyes out of the bear, they only get tighter. Cool, huh?

A bear sewn inside out to show the seams and how the eyes and appendages are attached.

A giant bear with a rope attached to its arms so that children can pull a rope from the gallery to make the bear "wave."

And then there are the random bears to be found in odd places around the factory--you have to look carefully!Once the bears are all right side out and their arms and legs are attached their "fur" needs to be fluffed and brushed due to the excess "fur" that comes off. The staff hand brushes the bears with wire dog brushes but because they don't want to scratch or snag the eyes and noses of the bears when it comes time to fluff the heads of the bears the staff literally beats the head of the bear against a railing. My picture of this came out blurred unfortunately but in keeping with the talking-as-if-the-bear-is-a-living-creature theme, the guide explained that the bears apparently like this treatment because when the staff does this, the bear's arms come up high in the air as do yours when you ride the roller coaster. WEEEEE! (If I'm lyin', I'm dyin')

Next up is the custom made bear section, where you can pick special colors or themes or even request a specific bear such as this wedding bear. The material from the dress is the same as the material in the woman's actual wedding dress and the design of the dress matches the actual wedding dress also (surprisingly no one asked how much something like THAT costs!) The fact is, the staff will work with you, creating a hand drawn design and double checking with you to match your desire for a special bear.

The last stop on the tour is the teddy bear hospital. If you purchase a bear from the Vermont Teddy Bear factory, it has a lifetime warranty. Therefore all you pay is to ship your "injured" bear to the factory where they will fix the bear for free and ship it back to you at their cost. This bear had someone try to fix it with duct tape--not a good idea.Your bear is returned to you with a hospital bracelet and a prescription for needed care (lots of hugs, kisses and or chocolate, etc.), again in keeping with the your-bear-is-a-living-breathing-creature storyline.

When you exit the assembly line/factory area you return to the gift shop area where you can find beary many bears on hand for purchase, along with tee shirts, hoodies and other goodies.There are a variety of sizes and shapes and colors of bears, with a basic honey colored, brown eyed bear running about $50. I have to say, I put my name in for a drawing for one of these adorable little guys. While I wouldn't pay for one for myself, I wouldn't be adverse to winning one!

A few bear factory factoids: it takes 12 minutes to make a Vermont Teddy Bear from start to finish.

They make approximately 750 bears a day, 150,000 bears a year.

The Vermont Teddy Bear factory is Vermont's 4th largest tourist destination.

If you put all the bears produced in one year paw to paw they would stretch about 300,000 feet or 57 miles or 2/3 of the width of the state of Vermont.

It takes one person five days to mow the lawn at the Teddy Bear factory.


Arkansas Patti said...

Who knew seeing how teddy bears are made would be better than an ice cream factory.
That was interesting and I loved the hospital wrist band for the repaired bears. Cute touch.

SkippyMom said...

Too sweet [sure this is you?] heehee - I like the hospit@l stuff too. :) & the weddi*g dress 1. Gl@d you h@d @ gre@t time.

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