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Group of enthusiasts reap big fun from miniature farms

It’s farm life writ small, and it’s attracted quite a following. A diorama club sees enthusiasts of all ages gather from all over to create complex miniature farm scenes for the sheer pleasure of it.

Members make the trek up Arthur way to Jolley’s Farm Toys and Diecast, which plays host to the club. It was there last Saturday that members who spend countless hours on their creations put their handiwork on display for the public.

Kevin Garner is one of the club’s members and, by his own admission, one of the oldest. He’s been collecting farm toys and building dioramas for around 40 years.

“It is a social thing for me, and when I got here, I thought that I would build something too. It is a lot of fun,” he said.

Garner has built a scale-model John Deere dealership with the club, but has also been working on his own diorama at home for 25 years. He says it is a labour of love.

“I would say I have about 50 hours put in on the dealership. The club met for six weeks, but I worked on a lot of it at home because I have the tools,” he said, adding that there were many more hours put into his own personal diorama farm project.  “I take the other (diorama) around to different toy shows and I probably have about 40 hours in just building the fencing on that one. All of the fence is designed to  look like split rail fencing and it is just made of toothpicks. It is a lot of fun.”

He says the club is great for people of all ages, and it teaches plenty of skills to kids, as well as providing a family bonding experience for members.

“It was great on the Wednesday nights, the fathers and grandfathers were coming out with the kids and they were getting into it just as much as their kids were,” he said. “The kids did most of their own dioramas and it is amazing what they have accomplished.”

Alma’s Sharon Grose is a fixture in the local farming community and its 4-H clubs. She says they initially wanted to start the club as an extension of 4-H, but they found the age limitations left out a few folks who were interested in making their own miniature scenes and dioramas.

Kevin Garner is just one of the members of the Diorama Club at Jolley’s Farm Toys and Diecast. He has been working on his own diorama for 25 years and built another one, a John Deere dealership, with the club. [Liz Bevan / The Observer]
“We thought about running it as a 4-H Club but the trouble with that is that you can only be age 9 to 21, and we have a member that is two years old. What do you do with the other people that want to come and participate?” she said.

Her son Nick owns Jolley’s Farm Toys and Diecast, which seems an ideal spot for the club’s meeting place.

Their own iteration of a diorama club has been wildly successful.

“The club teaches them responsibility. They have to make a plan, they have to follow through and implement,” she said, echoing Garner when discussing the multi-generational impact. “You have to have patience and responsibility. You have to do the work, and even clean up. These projects involve a lot. When you get grandpa giving you techniques, it is great. It can be hard sometimes to find an activity that everyone in the family can do. One person officially joins the club, but the rest just come to help out.”

The club is already looking at expanding after a fruitful first run, with discussions around adding an extra night per week in the fall.

“They have already made plans for a fall session, and there has already been interest. But, there are only so many people that they can take, capacity-wise. When they hit 15 or 16, that would be it. Then you add in the family members helping, and it can be a lot,” said Grose.

The club is open to anyone who is interested in farm toys and creating miniature scenes just for fun.

“Come out. Everybody helps each other. The club is very supportive and you share our techniques, and there are no mistakes. The club is about what you want to do and how you want to create it, so we just encourage everyone to come out and see what it is about,” said Grose. “Some of the older members put together a diorama of what their farm looked like when they were kids, and other people grew up on a farm, they can’t afford to farm anymore, they work someplace else, and they make their dream farms.”

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