FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4)- Hundreds of men and women from across the globe are gathering at the 2011 National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention in Fort Lauderdale.
But this isn’t just any annual convention. This is the year Ken turned the big Five-Oh.
This year, the convention decided to honor the couple’s golden anniversary with a “Spring Break” themed bash set on the shores of Fort Lauderdale Beach, mimicking the 1960 film “Where the Boys Are,’’ which epitomized the Ken and Barbie surfer lifestyle when they first came out, CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reported.
The convention, held at the Harbor Beach Marriot Resort & Spa began Tuesday and concludes Saturday at 10 p.m. The two have been a couple since 1961, two years after Barbie was released to stores.
“Everyone has their own Barbie story, and there’s always an emotional connection,” said Katie Phillips, brand manager for Mattel, which manufactures Barbie and friends.
Take, for example, Eric Chatillon, attending the convention from Lyons, France. He began collecting Barbies in 1996 after visiting a doll museum in Paris in which he found the Barbie similar to one his aunt gave him to use as his action figure’s girlfriend.
Now, he owns about 300 vintage Barbies.
Chatillon, 47, is hoping to buy a few dolls for his collection at this year’s convention.
Mattel estimates there are 100,000 collectors around the world, the Herald reported.
Those attending the convention come for a number of reasons: to sell or buy dolls, mingle with other collectors, indulge in a hobby or revisit their past.
The convention, which is open to the public Saturday, is a Barbie lover’s fantasy — there are dealers selling rare dolls, workshops on sewing and restoration, couture Barbie clothing, movie screenings, competitions, raffles, parties and a fashion show.
Young and old alike donned orange tote bags and badges – and pink, lots of pink – as they wandered through Barbie’s Dream World, filled with all the clothing and pink convertibles an enthusiast could want, not to mention the smiles and hugs shared between seasoned attendees.
And many attendees participated in the fashion show, dressing as their favorite Ken or Barbie.
Sales are continuing to improve as the Barbie franchise grows. Last year, sales increased 14 percent in the United States and 7 percent worldwide, the Herald reported.
And with collectors willing to pay big bucks for Barbies, it’s a lucrative business to be in.
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)