News Local/State

Raggedy Ann Fans Celebrate Her Centennial In Arcola

Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls.

Recent versions of the Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls, created by Arcola native Johnny Gruelle in 1915 and 1920, respectively. (Flickr)

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Raggedy Ann. The smiling red-haired rag doll was patented in 1915, with the first of dozens of Raggedy Ann books following in 1918. And a group of Raggedy Ann collectors is holding a celebration this weekend in Arcola, the birthplace of Johnny Gruell, who, according to most accounts, made the first Raggedy Ann doll for his daughter.

Kathy Ellis, one of the event organizers, says a century of Raggedy Ann toys and books have attracted a legion of passionate collectors from across the country and abroad. She’s expecting about 200 of them to come to Arcola this weekend. And Ellis says that after all this time, Raggedy Ann still has the power to captivate a child.

“No, she’s not a Power Ranger, and she’s not any lala-loopsies or anything”, said Ellis. “She’s just a homespun, soft, cuddly doll that has a nice smile, that you can’t help look at that smile and feel happy about that doll. And I think that’s what transcends the generations.”

This weekend’s Raggedy Ann celebration includes activities for all ages at the Arcola Center, 107 West Main Street in Arcola, Saturday, June 13th from 9 AM to 2 PM. Joni Gruelle, granddaughter of Johnny Gruelle is scheduled to make an appearance. Patty Hall, the author of a biography of Johnny Gruelle is scheduled to appear as well.

The Arcola Center activities will be followed by a parade, taking a two-block route from the Arcola depot to the downtown area at 2:30 PM. The Arcola High School Band and Color Guard will be feature. And the public is invited to join in the parade as well.

There are also two reservation-only events … a dinner and auction of Raggedy Ann collectibles Friday evening, June 12th, in nearby Arthur, and a party held by the Arcola Chamber of Commerce at the Arcola Best Western on Saturday night.

Ellis says the Raggedy Ann centennial celebration marks the second year her group has held an event in Arcola, after a previous Raggedy Ann festival was discontinued and a Raggedy Ann museum (co-founded by Joni Gruelle) in the town closed down in 2009. Ellis says her organization will make plans for the future at a business meeting this weekend.