By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – From the fluffiest to the largest bear, children, parents and hundreds of stuffed creatures filled the grounds of the McFadden-Ross House June 25 for the annual Teddy Bear Picnic.
Rubber duckies were scooped up from a wading pool, soap bubbles were blown, Rooty the A&W Bear greeted guests and a first aid station stitched up bears that needed some tender loving care.
The event culminated with a Teddy Bear parade twice around the museum grounds, followed by category prizes for biggest, fluffiest, look-alike, unique and oldest bears.
Assistant museum curator Matt Graff said the picnic had more sponsors this year, plus the presence of a vendor Build-A-Bear trailer in the parking lot, along with an online ticket presale option.
“It looks to be a good turnout,” he said. “This is a 90 percent outdoor event – we’ve got some crafts inside – and because of that, I think people are comfortable now coming back out.”
Graff said the bubble station was one of the most popular activities, followed by the rubber duck pond and the Model T, where children could pose for photos behind the wheel.
The event concluded with a parade and prizes.
“It was a lot of work, but I am very grateful for the volunteers,” Graff said. “We’ve got about 20 volunteers at the stations, and an event like this is not possible to do with just the museum staff – you really need volunteers.”
He also thanked longtime volunteer Sue Saroglia, who couldn’t attend in person, but whose knowledge made the setup the day before the event go smoothly.
Volunteer Marge Montrief was busy stitching up teddy bears needing tears repaired at a bear first aid station.
“They are so worn out, with an awful lot of hugging going on,” she said with a knowing smile. “They are just little tears, and somehow or other we’ve just got to put them back together.”
Montrief said she was pleased that the children were having good, wholesome fun at the Teddy Bear Picnic.
“This is the place for them to come and do it, and we are so happy to provide it,” she said. “COVID kind of interfered with the scheduling, but we are back on now.”
Volunteer Ann Korinek, who was running the rubber duck wading pool pond, said children scooping a floating duck with a hand net received a miniature duck as a souvenir.
“It’s a really good game for little kids – even big kids like them because the ducks are really popular,” she said.
Korinek said one teddy bear took an unintended swim in the duck pond.
She noted that a lot of big bears were in attendance, vying for the largest bear category prize.
Parent Carrie Kushnir, who brought her daughter, Nadia, 3, to the picnic, said it was nice to be able to attend events like this again as communities emerge from the pandemic precautions.
“It’s just so good to be out and see all the other kids having fun, and to see her interacting with other kids and people, and just being happy,” she said. “It’s a good feeling, and it is nice to see this kind of stuff coming back.”
She said Nadia was definitely enjoying playing the games.
Museum Curator Jack Tate said the picnic was back in full force following the pandemic pause.
“The museum is coming back to life,” he said. “Everything like this, and the volunteers we have helping us, is making that happen.”
Tate said the museum’s antique bears were on display in the Gardner House, adjacent to the McFadden-Ross House.
City Councilmember Leslie Herrick, who served as one of the teddy bear contest judges, said she was glad that families were returning to events like the Teddy Bear Picnic.
“Last year we had about half the people that we have right now, and they are still coming, so I think families are getting out and about more, and looking for these opportunities,” she said. “But some of these families were here last year.
“This is a long-time tradition for a lot of Dearborn families, so that is what touches me – the participation in something that is such a part of Dearborn’s history, and what more appropriate place than the historical museum.”
Herrick said it is always hard to select the winners, because the children are all so cute.
“Some of the bears are so creative, the way they are dressed, and some of them are well-worn and loved,” she said. “It is very hard to pick one over another when you know that these are so meaningful.”
Attendee Zeinab Choucair, 9, of Dearborn, who brought a wagon full of bears, said she was glad to see the Teddy Bear Picnic return.
“I like to do a lot of crafts, and I enjoy having teddy bears,” she said.
Choucair said all of her bears are special, and declined to identify her favorite bear.
Her mother, Nissrin Bazzi, said the event was fun for her as well.
“I am a teacher, and I am so happy we are doing this, and going back to ‘normal life,’ step by step,” she said, gesturing with air quotes. “I see children having fun, and this is most important for me, this social communication.”
Bazzi said the children’s giggles and smiles made her happy.
“We need this, as adults, and children, too,” she said.