By Nancy Lindsey
Two-year-old Emma likes to do everything in the toyland her grandfather built: make toys walk, climb, roll, dance, slide, rock, peck, spin; strum the harp with invisible strings—and take a ride to the ceiling in the yellow air chair.
The Toy Time Folk Toy & Science Museum, located in a big brick building in the heart of Meadows of Dan, is not just for toddlers like Emma, however. It’s for older kids who like complicated wooden puzzles and figuring out how things work, grown-ups who remember playing with tops and whimmy diddles, and old-timers who may know how to build folk toys themselves.
“If a five-year-old likes it, a 95-year-old will like it too,” said Tom Wilson, creator of the 60-plus exhibits in the museum. “It’s for all ages.”
The museum is a blend of old and new, traditional and space-age—but don’t look for any computer games here. As the museum’s brochure states, it “features large-scale interactive folk toy reproductions and science exhibits…Toy Time is a fascinating focus on craft, culture, history, science and play…”
Wilson worked for children’s museums for 24 years, and built all the exhibits featured in the 4,000-square-foot second floor of the building. His son-in-law, John Clark, his daughter, Jill Clark, and their daughters, Emma and Kaitlyn, have helped set up the stations and will be helping out in the museum.
Wilson and the Clarks live near Winston-Salem, N.C., but also have homes in the Meadows of Dan area. “We love this area,” Wilson said.
Toy Time will have its official grand opening on May 28, but will be open on weekends before then. Hours will be Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
Wilson said he believes he has found the perfect match “between this building and this museum,” and added, “you can’t get any closer to the parkway than here.”
The museum is only a short exit away from the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most visited national parks.
Local tourism officials have made it their mission to draw many of those tourists off the much-traveled road to the counties it goes through, and Wilson believes his museum will become an important part of that effort.
“If we’re here three years from now, we’ll be a major destination for Patrick County,” Wilson said. “I hope it will become the folk toy capital of the world.”
The interactive exhibits include rolling balls, walking toys, twirling tops, Jacob’s Ladder, pecking birds and chickens, acrobats, climbing children, dancers, lumberjacks, ball launchers, racing trains, yo-yos and tops, the stringless harp and wave machine. There is also a “tot spot” where toddlers can play with classic toys.
The old-fashioned toys are “based on old folk toys with an Appalachian Mountains flair,” Wilson said. He noted that whimmy diddles were traditionally made from the wood of mountain laurel and rhododendron.
Wilson said he expects area school groups to make Toy Time a popular place for field trips, and it will be open when local festivals are happening.
The admission charge will be $5 for adults, $4 for children, and free for kids aged two and under.
Toy Time is a museum, not a store, Wilson said, but he may have a limited amount of miniature (as opposed to giant) whimmy doodles and similar small items for sale.
For more information about the Toy Time Museum, call 276-952-1154 or visit www.toytimemuseum.com.