7/19/2014 7:00 AM
By Rebecca Long Chaney Special to Lancaster Farming
HARRISBURG, Pa. — More than 600 junior exhibitors from 34 states spent a week in Harrisburg last week for the Junior National Hereford Expo. In addition to the main events were tours to Gettysburg, food stands featuring local favorites, and an elaborate miniature farm diorama by father-son team, Alvin and Charles Vogel, who welcomed Hereford farm families to visit their exhibit in the Farm Show Complex.
A diorama is a three-dimensional model and is a way to build an exciting and educational scene in a small space. And that’s just what Alvin Vogel and his 32-year-old son, Charles, created.
Tucked into the corner of the cattle barns close to the show arena, a steady flow of young and old visitors enjoyed the miniature farm displayed safely inside a portable trailer. Inside, kids begged for the lights to watch the miniature fair carnival and fireworks light up the display.
The Vogels have been entertaining thousands with their diorama since 2009. The farm toys are representative of the 1960s through today.
“Most of the display is made up of Charles’ childhood farm toys,” Alvin Vogel said. “He never took his toys outside. The display has about 2,000 pieces and every piece has a story. Many of the miniature toys are not available in stores — Charles built them from scratch.”
The craftsmanship of the small replicas made by Charles Vogel is nothing short of amazing. Hailing from Evans City, Pa., the Vogels have a Hereford cow-calf operation.
“People are completely naive (about) where their food comes from and that’s why we wanted to create this miniature farm — to help educate the public about food production,” Alvin Vogel said.
The exhibit depicts a fair, a carnival and numerous working farms, all with miniature pieces of farm machinery harvesting crops as well as beef cattle and dairy cattle, some with milkers on.
“It’s a busy display to show all the work involved in producing food and to let folks know food comes from the farm, not the store,” he said.
In the exhibit are miniature antique cars and tractors, along with silos, grain mills and a little blinking light that looks like a farmer is welding.
The Vogels paid great attention to detail and enjoy sharing their love of miniature farm toys and agriculture with the public.
“We travel to fairs, farm shows and lots of events where the public comes in,” Alvin Vogel said. “Some agricultural groups help pay our expenses to events to get the message of food production out.”
“I enjoy talking to people about the display and really enjoy the expressions on kids’ faces,” he added.
Six-year-old Eli Dixon of Rislur, Ind., pointed to a few things in the display that were similar to toys he had at home in his miniature farm collection. “I’d like to get in there and play,” he said, “I like the barns and trucks ... I’d like to play with it all.”
Joe Renn of Hartland, Wis., who was exhibiting Herefords at the Expo, said he had farm toys at home as well. “We raise beef cattle and dairy cattle in Wisconsin,” he said. “I play a lot with my play farm and sometimes I forget where I am. I think this diorama is really cool, especially all the cattle. ... I especially like how big it is.”
Creating the large diorama was no easy task. Great care was taken with placing each small item, according to Alvin Vogel. “Many items are glued down and won’t move,” he said. “But everything with wheels gets taken out of the display and carefully packed when the trailer is taken home or to the next show.”
According to the Vogels, it’s a challenge.
“The display is never exactly the same and you have to be careful not to break any of the farm toys in the display while placing others. Each time we arrive at a new show it’s like playing farm again because we unpack everything with wheels and place it,” Alvin Vogel said with a smile. “The display is an entire working farm.”
“It’s been a great week and we’ve met Hereford breeders from all over the country,” Alvin Vogel said.