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30 years of Happy Meal toys make up new Besser Museum exhibit

March 19, 2012
By DIANE SPEER - News Lifestyles Editor , The Alpena News

What parents of young children haven't bought their fair share of Happy Meals at McDonald's?

With collectible toys of all kinds offered as an enticement, the boxed meals remain a major kid-draw. From Transformers to My Little Pony to everything-Disney related, the toys keep kids coming back for more.

A new exhibit at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan celebrates more than 30 years of these Happy Meal toys while providing parents and kids alike with a walk down memory lane. Although not all-inclusive, the exhibit does feature at least one toy from each of 30 different years.

Article Photos

News Photo by Diane Speer
This is a portion of 30 years worth of McDonald’s Happy Meals toys featured in a nostalgic new exhibit at the Besser Museum.”

"What really seems to draw folks in is the opportunity to go back in time and remember when they were a kid and collected the toys or when their children were little and collected the toys," said museum staff member Randy Shultz, who installed the exhibit.

The first McDonald's franchise officially opened in 1953 near Chicago. Saginaw is credited with being the fourth franchise ever built, and this new "Happy Meal Memories: A Celebration of Toys" exhibit comes to Alpena from the Castle Museum in Saginaw.

According to Shultz, the exhibit was curated by Castle Museum in recognition of the more than 30-year history of Happy Meal toys. The items featured came in large part from the archives at McDonald's corporate headquarters in Michigan.

Castle Museum then offered the exhibit to the Besser Museum free of charge. While the exhibit eventually is expected to be featured at other places around the state, Alpena is only the second location to show off the collection of toys.

"It's not comprehensive, but it is a big representation of all the toys offered throughout 30 years of Happy Meals history," said Michael Zalewski, a spokesman from McDonald's of Michigan, who traveled to Alpena to see the installation.

The first years of the toys feature such items as refrigerator magnets, foam toys and classic Golden Books like "Poky Little Puppy." Among the most popular giveaways ever offered were the Beanie Babies in 2004.

"That has to be the number one most collected item," said Shultz.

Other noteworthy toys from years past include Fraggle Rock in 1988, Garfield in 1989, Peanuts characters in 1990, Batman in 1992, Flintstones in 1994, Power Rangers in 1995, Pirates of the Caribbean in 2006, American Idol in 2008, Penguins of Madagascar in 2010 and My Little Pony in 2011.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Ronald McDonald is expected to visit the museum on April 14.

"Happy Meal Memories: A Celebration of Toys" will remain on display at the front entrance to the museum through June 2.



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