The Munchkin and Her Monkey

The almost-12-year-old likes sock monkeys.

A lot.

About a year ago I was checking out Midway Village in Rockford. I had seen a sign for it on the way home from “up north” and wondered if it would be a fun place to take the kids so checked out the website. At which point I learned something I didn’t know before (and actually, do not remember ever wondering about) – I discovered that Rockford is the home of the sock monkey. Truly.

But what grabbed my attention was the Sock Monkey Madness Festival. Sock monkey enthusiasts come from all over the country and even the world to celebrate the stuffed monkey.

Some of the earliest sock monkeys - from the 1920s
Some of the earliest sock monkeys – from the 1920s

I am not really into sock monkeys, but am into doing fun things for the kids’ birthdays, so I put the 2014 Sock Monkey Madness Festival on the schedule. (We had missed the 2013 festival.)

I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I mean WHAT do you do at a Sock Monkey Madness Festival on a cold March day? How mad can you get with a bunch of sock monkeys? I pictured a room of booths selling all things sock monkeys.

And that’s exactly what it was. Some of the monkeys were cute. Some were sort of not so cute. Some booths sold clothes (apparently sock monkeys need an extensive wardrobe) and an author of a book about sock monkeys was signing autographs. Truly monkey madness.

The sock monkey when the Nelson Knitting Company started making them in the l950s
The sock monkey when the Nelson Knitting Company started making them in the l950s

We wandered around for awhile and then headed down a hallway to the museum part of the building which told about the history of Rockford and the history of sock monkeys. (Truly, did you know sock monkeys had a history?)

Then we discovered we could make our own sock monkey. The lady said it would take an hour and a half to two hours, so we only purchased one kit.

What we received for $20.00 was a plastic bag containing a pair of socks and sock monkey instructions.

Our bag with our socks.
Our bag with our socks.

The room was set up with long tables, crowded with people making sock monkeys. (About 200 monkeys would be handmade by sock monkey fans during the fest.)

Some were novices (like us) and others obviously came to the festival each year because they had the past years’ sock monkeys lined up at their work stations. One man was saying he had 54 sock monkeys.

The munchkin and I read our instructions and got started on our project.

Other supplies were on the tables: scissors, stuffing, yarn, buttons, etc.

Our instructions.
Our instructions.

The munchkin began by cutting one of the socks and stuffing the legs.

The munchkin stuffs the monkey.
The munchkin stuffs the monkey.

After the sock was adequately stuffed. I sewed the stuffing inside the monkey and then we tied yarn around the top to form the head. So far. So good.

DSC03200About this time, two delightful young ladies came and sat across from us – Andrea and Liz. We discovered they worked at the Rockford Visitor’s Center and often told people about the Sock Monkey Madness Festival, but had never actually been to one and never before had the privilege of making a sock monkey.

We had so much fun talking with them – we felt we had made two new friends. In fact, the munchkin and I ended up on the Rockford Visitor Center blog  – just as I am sharing a picture of them right here! (If  you check out their blog – be sure and watch the video, too, and see the munchkin with her monkey.)

Andrea and Liz make their sock monkeys.
Andrea and Liz make their sock monkeys.

We had a good time laughing with them about our less than stellar efforts at sewing the arms, legs and mouth on the monkeys. (Rather tricky, actually.)  But we did it! Two hours later – this is what we had!

DSC03211 The munchkin even made a bracelet for the monkey and for Andrea’s and Liz’s monkeys, too.

We emerged from the room to find out that it had snowed the entire time we were there and was still snowing. (How unusual this winter.)

We had many miles to go – so we headed home.

But a good time was had by all and a new sock monkey had entered the world.

DSC03209

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