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Reader Participation Day: What Is The Most Unusual, Interesting, Or Silly National Park Souvenir You've Seen?

NPS Silly Bandz

National Park Service Silly Bandz, top, try to cash in on last year's craze. The female ranger doll could be a great inspiration for girls to consider an outdoor career. Photos by Danny Bernstein.

When I visited Kings Mountain National Military Park and browsed through their visitor center store, I found National Park Service Silly Bandz.

These rubber bands, usually shaped like animals or geometric shapes, were the craze last year for the 6-to-12-year-old set. They're very cheap and children wear them on their wrists and trade them.

And now, as the fad may be waning, the Kings Mountain store, run by Eastern National , was advertizing "New. NPS Silly Bandz." Each packet contains two types of arrow heads, bisons, a ranger flat hat, and a male and female ranger. My granddaughter loved them.

At Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor Center, the store, run by the Everglades Association, was selling a female ranger rag doll. The doll is almost but not quite in uniform. She's wearing green pants and a gray shirt, has a removable flat hat and binoculars around her neck. For some reason, her National Park Service arrowhead does not have the same design as on a real uniform.

So what is the most unusual, interesting, or silly item you've seen in a national park store? Let us know where you saw the item - the name of the park unit - and if possible, what cooperating organization runs the store?


Long, long ago there were a bunch of Yellowstone savages (I guess that dates me, huh?) who started an enterprise in which they made necklaces out of elk droppings. They dipped them in shellac and strung them together and made a bunch of money on it until some humorless NPS person tagged them for 1> removal of natural material from the park and 2> conducting a business without a concession permit.

Then there was one summer when the souvenir stand in the OF Inn featured cans of "Dehydrated Water." Ideal for light weight backpacking. Just add 14 ounces of water to the can and stir.

Or how about "Dehydrated Grizzly Bear?" Just add water, stir, and "run like hell."

Honest. They were very popular. I bought several cans myself to give to my brothers and sister for Christmas.

Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center store - probably run by the Northwest Interpretive Association. In the clearance section we saw some mugs that said "OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK" in block letters on one side and "HURRICANE RIDGE" with an image of Hurricane Ridge visible through the letters and a small image of a fawn (deer). The kicker was looking into the mug, there's a molded ceramic fawn (looks like it was modeled from the picture) at the bottom of the cup. Maybe I'll post a photo.

I would note that a lot of NPS souvenirs are sold by concessionaires and not nonprofits.

I was taking a course in college on Enthnicity, Gender and Class in the Southwest and needed some props for a presentation I was doing on stereotyping of Native Americans. At somewhat-nearby Petrified Forest NP, I bought some plastic "Indian dolls" with eyes that closed and some Made-In-China rubber tomahawks. I was so embarrased to purchase these! I probably spent 10 minutes explaining why I was purchasing them - they were for my presentation, certainly not for me to use and "enjoy". The cashier could really care less, of course, but I had to justify why I would buy such cheap and useless kitsch.

I learned why the NPS arrowhead is not authentic. The arrowhead is copy protected and the manufacturer would have had to get permission to use it.

Still a great doll!
Danny Bernstein

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