Going to Babyland
Rediscover your childhood in North Georgia at BabyLand General Hospital.
by Erin Z. Bass
Most children of the eighties remember their first, or maybe favorite, Cabbage Patch Kid. I had a few girls – one with curly blonde hair and chubby legs – before Gregory came along. I don’t remember any of the girls’ names, but I remember getting red-headed Gregory for Christmas one year. He was different, he was a boy, and he was mine.
More than 25 years later, I hadn’t given another thought to where he ended up or how he was doing. In fact, I hadn’t thought about Cabbage Patch Kids at all and didn’t know if they still existed. That is, until I visited Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia, where these magical elements of childhood are very alive and doing very well.
I was on a press trip through the North Georgia mountains and hadn’t really looked at the itinerary that closely. When we got on the bus one morning and our tour guide announced we were going to BabyLand General after lunch, it still didn’t really register. Not until we drove around the bend and saw the big white building resembling a plantation with an equally large Cabbage Patch Kids sign out front did I realize what this place was. And, inside, was another jaw-dropping experience.
Dressed in a white doctor coat, Director of Corporate Communications Margaret McLean met us in the front entrance. While we peeked at the Cabbage Patch Kids’ progression over the years behind glass cases, she filled us in on the history of BabyLand, and it was immediately clear how seriously she took this job. She told us never to refer to the Cabbage Patch Kids as “dolls.” They were babies and her babies, and in this place high on the hill, they were real.
Margaret told us about how the creator of Cabbage Patch Kids, Xavier Roberts, first hand-stitched the babies in his hometown of Cleveland in the late 1970s. He called them “Little People” and exhibited them at regional art shows. He was awarded a blue ribbon for “Dexter” in 1978 and told the audience he found his “Little People” in a Cabbage Patch. They were not for sale.
When someone just had to have one, Xavier told them they could “adopt” and “care for” the baby. By 1982, Xavier and his company, Original Appalachian Artworks Inc., licensed the name Cabbage Patch Kids and a Connecticut toy company started producing them with vinyl faces.
In 1983, more than 2.5 million Cabbage Patch Kids entered the world and became a cultural phenomenon. Xavier’s hand-stitched little people are still delivered daily and offered for adoption at BabyLand. Visitors can actually witness their birth in the Cabbage Patch, where Licensed Patch Nurses (LPNs) and doctors give adoption consultations and parenting advice.
The hospital also has an emergency room on site for those kids in need of medical and grooming attention. Baths, limb replacements, minor surgery and more are available for a small fee.
Admission to BabyLand has never been charged, but there is an adoption cost to bring home a Cabbage Patch Kid. Price for the original, hand-stitched Little People range from $199-$400. BabyLand Exclusive Kids and Babies with a soft sculptured body and a vinyl head start at $69.99 for kids and $49.99 for babies. Other versions, like toy replicas and porcelain Cabbage Patch Kids, are available as well.
While each baby born at BabyLand is given a name and birth date, adoptive parents do have the opportunity to change this on site. Already have a Cabbage Patch Kid at home? You might want to check its date (I remember mine being on Gregory’s bottom). Some of the earliest babies originally adopted for $35 now go for as high as $15,000-$50,000.
BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia, is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Annual events include a Fall Fest, Halloween celebration, Appalachian Christmas, Easter egg hunt and Mommy and Me Teas. While in the area, you might also want to check out the Bavarian village of Helen, Unicoi State Park, Sautee-Nacoochee Vineyards, The Folk Pottery Museum, International Gourd Museum and Yonah Mountain Winery.
Photo Credits: First pic of building courtesy of BabyLand; remaining pics and video by Deep South.