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Cabbage Patch Kids mark their 25th birthday with bash
Becky Campbell has been an employee at Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland for 29 years. - photo by Tom Reed

CLEVELAND -- Where do babies come from? In Cleveland, it’s the Cabbage Patch.

This year marks the Cabbage Patch Kids’ 25th birthday. They were born in the 1980s, created by Cleveland native Xavier Roberts, and spurred a nationwide phenomenon, becoming the "it" Christmas gift in 1983.

Like "Tickle Me Elmo" in the 1990s, parents stood in long lines just to put a "kid" under the tree for their little ones.

Children could "adopt" a kid that looked just like them, down to the skin, hair and eye color.

"They came out in the summer of ’83. By November, we started seeing different things; they were starting to get really popular," said Margaret McLean, director of corporate communications for Original Appalachian Artworks, the parent company of Cabbage Patch Kids.

"By the start of December, they got to the point where they were having riots (to get the Cabbage Patch Kids), so that was just so interesting because they had no idea that they would become so popular," she said.

At Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, the original soft-sculpture dolls are still sprouting in the Cabbage Patch, and parents who grew up with Cabbage Patch Kids can bring their own children to get in on the fun.

This Saturday, Babyland celebrates its 30th anniversary and the Cabbage Patch Kids’ 25th birthday rolled into one big party.

"This is a big year, the 25th year for Cabbage Patch Kids," McLean said.

Like any kid’s birthday bash, there will be cake, goodie bags and games. Some of the Cabbage Patch Kids will even drop in for a visit.

"On the grounds of Babyland, of course, we have our music stage. The kids will be able to dance with the costume characters. We are giving away free goodie bags and we will have lots of cake, cupcakes, ice cream and punch," McLean said.

"And the rides that we have on our grounds, kind of Xavier’s gift to the community, but we’ll have slides and climbing walls and different things like that. But that’s all going to be free so the kids can enjoy and play and dance."

A new Cabbage Patch Kid also will be there to celebrate.

"We’ve got the 25th anniversary Cabbage Patch Kids," McLean said. "We had the sculptor do commemorative sculpts of the faces that were first introduced in 1983. So we have a variety of babies, like one has a little tooth and some have dimples and that type of thing, but they are the same faces."

McLean said collectors who purchased a Cabbage Patch Kid in 1983 also will recognize the same hair styles, eye colors and outfits on the 25th anniversary kid.

So why have Cabbage Patch Kids stayed popular all these years? "They are one of a kind. They’re personalized," McLean said.

"When you see people looking for a baby at Babyland — or even at a Wal-Mart or Target — they look for a baby that has a certain name, has a certain birth date, maybe looks like their child or their grandchild. I think that’s the whole thing; that there is one Cabbage Patch Kid out there that they’re looking for," she said.

Since 1978, Babyland General Hospital has been housed in what used to be the Neal Clinic, which was a working hospital from 1919 to 1959.

Roberts broke ground on a new location, located off Hulsey Road in Cleveland, in 2007.

"If everything continues to stay on course, we hope to open by spring of 2009," McLean said.

The Southern plantation-style building will house a retail space, a Cabbage Patch Kids historical archive, warehouse, conference facility and offices.

And a brand-new Cabbage Patch, of course.

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