Cabbage Patch Fantasy Land
Donna Brown says she's never turned away a Cabbage Patch Kid. She's found orphan Kids stuffed into bags, hanging from her mailbox and her front doorknob. Combined with her own Cabbage Patch collection, it created a Kid population explosion in her house -- which spilled over into one additional trailer home, then another. In 2006 Donna and her husband Clyde built the Cabbage Patch Fantasy Land museum building, but it took three years before it opened. It took that long to squeeze her Kids inside.
"I'd wake up at night and figure out how I was gonna arrange it," said Donna. "My husband told me, 'It's gonna be big enough.' But it wasn't big enough.
"I still got Cabbage Patch in the house," said Donna, "and my museum's full."
Cabbage Patch Kids, with their chubby cheeks and give-me-a-hug arms, were the first toy to cause stampedes and fistfights among product-crazed shoppers. A Cabbage Patch Kid flew into orbit on the Space Shuttle in 1985. Cabbage Patch Kids were the official mascot of the 1992 and 1996 U.S. Olympic teams. In 1999 the American public voted the Kids onto an official U.S. postage stamp, representing 1980s pop culture along with The Cosby Show and break dancing.
The passion for Cabbage Patch eventually faded among most fans, but not Donna. She scoured thrift stores and flea markets, gradually amassing a collection that today is unrivaled. The Kids in her museum vastly outnumber the people in her Iowa town. Cabbage Patch claims that no two Kids are alike, but Donna has so many that she actually has duplicates. "If it says 'Cabbage Patch,' I get it, even though I still might have it," Donna explained. "That's why I got so much!"
And it's not just the Kids. Cabbage Patch spinoff creatures include Bunnybees, Furskins, Patch Puppies, and the half-Kid, half-animal "Koosas" that look like refugees from The Island of Dr. Moreau. Donna even has Taro Kids, an obscure Cabbage Patch ripoff made in the Philippines. The Space Shuttle flight spawned the "Young Astronauts" Kids in 1986; ten years later the voracious Snacktime Kids had to be pulled off store shelves because they also ate children's hair and fingers.
We asked Donna about the "Cabbage Patch Pox" Kids inside the baby incubator in her hospital nursery display. She explained that they were an unplanned mutation of the Cabbage Patch, sporting measles-like deformities that some said came from mixing too much baby powder with the vinyl in the Kids' heads. Donna at first was leery of Pox Kids, thinking they were moldy; now they're rare collectibles, and Donna wishes she had more.
Licensed through a half-dozen companies, the Kids have been worked relentlessly over the years by the toy industry, which has slapped the Cabbage Patch brand onto anything it thought would sell: diapers, watches, board games, bassinets, lunch boxes, sing-along cassette tapes, fabric bolts, desktop phones. "I'd like to have one of everything," Donna said, "but I can't get everything because no one knows what everything is."
You'd never know that by visiting Donna's museum, which overwhelms with its abundance: a lush Cabbage Patch in America's breadbasket. "I've had people come back three or four times; they miss a lot," said Donna. "I get people who plan their vacations to come here. They'll say, 'I had one of these when I was little,' or 'I remember my mom fighting to get me one.'"
Despite Donna's steady flow of Kid orphans and Kid gifts from friends and family, her 30+ years of Cabbage Patch collecting has slowed since she's now retired and on a fixed income. We asked her, What if someone offered you $1,000 for a Space Shuttle Kid? Or $5,000? "I wouldn't sell it," Donna answered. "I tell people right away, 'Nothing's for sale.' Someday, somebody will have to sell it. But not as long as I'm here."