|Who doesn't love Teddy Bears and who didn't have one as a child? I can still remember the little brown teddy I had as a child that even talked! So cute, cuddly and furry, they are bed mates to lots of kids around the world. Running errands that took us into Phoenix and being kids at heart, we decided to tour the Stuffington Bear Factory which gives tours every day Monday through Saturday at 1 p.m. Loving to learn something new, this tour was no exception. And what a fun tour it was. Asking how the teddy bear got its name, no one had the answer but we sure do now. In 1902 President Teddy Roosevelt and some men were out hunting and as guys love to do, a contest soon cropped up to see how many in the party could shoot a bear. Most of the men having bagged their catch, Roosevelt was coming up empty until someone found a cub and tied it to a tree so Teddy could shoot it. Refusing to do so, Roosevelt was angered and said he would not shoot the bear. Someone from the Press that always follows the President around created the infamous cartoon of the story. The cartoon was seen by 2 entrepreneurs (one in the U.S. and one in Germany)and both decided to capitalize on the story and the "Teddy Bear" was created. The first bears had moving joints and were stuffed with straw and not very cuddly and while the one we saw was a replica, one of the originals is on display in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. The Stuffington Bear Factory has been around since 1959 in the Phoenix area and is one of the few places in the U.S. where teddy bears are still made (most are made overseas). Being very proud of their "Made in the U.S.A." status, the employees are proud of their work and the quality of stuffed animals they make. You are taken directly out onto the manufacturing floor where you see the fabrics being chosen for the stuffed animals, the tables where an automatic cutter can cut up to 60 layers of fabric with all the little intricate pattern pieces, then handed over to the sewing area where several people are busily sewing the animals together and putting on the eyes (with safety washers inside so a child can't get them caught in their throat) and nose. Once they are stitched, each has to be turned right-side out by hand from a small opening that is left so they can be filled. Then it is on to the filling machine where they are filled through a tube, with a big hopper full of stuffing. From there they travel to the sewing machine that stitches up the tiny hole, then brushed and combed to be made ready for their new home. It is quite a labor of love to make each animal and they not only make bears but lots of different stuffed animals and even run contests at times for the kids to create combining and naming the new creation (3 of which I have included in the photos). They also make special request items such as a camel-back spider, 2 headed cow, and our very favorite...a teddy bear made out of the uniform of a "Fallen Soldier" in which all the fabric that is not used to make the bear is used to stuff it and is done for a company called "Hearts for Heroes." Stuffington has just received orders to make 100 stuffed "Bo's"...the dog in residence at the White House and will be sold in the White House Gift Shop and 500 "Sea Otters" for the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA with more orders to follow for both. "Bo" is cut out but not been stitched yet...the sea otter is in production right now and we were able to see one and take its photo. The Stuffington Bear Factory holds parties, class trips, and group tours. They also host over 1000 children each month on field trips to the factory where the kids get to stuff their own bear from start to finish and then can take them out into the store and dress them in a huge variety of clothing. The 15 employees at the factory make those 1000+ bears each month in addition to all the other animals they make. Depending on how many 'parts' each animal has, each one takes about 15 minutes to sew. Call it lucky or just good planning we happened to hit a day when they weren't busy...yesterday they hosted a class trip of 175 kids, all stuffing, sewing, combing, brushing and clothing their bears...not a day we would have liked to have been in the factory but can imagine how much fun it was for the kids. While we weren't smart enough to call ahead, it might be a good idea if you don't want to share the factory with 175 kids! This is a great stop for any age kid 3-100, and is fun to see the process and be proud of another product still made in the U.S.A.