Agriculture Part of Illinois Bicentennial Ornament

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Illinois ornament

Rebecca Schotthofer, a Peoria County Farm Bureau member, stands in her gift shop, Hayloft Shops in Mossville, which she owns with her mother. (Photo by Catrina Rawson)

Rebecca Schotthofer paid tribute to her farm roots when designing an ornament to commemorate Illinois’ bicentennial.

“I wanted it to not just be a Chicago skyline,” she said. “There’s so much ag in Illinois.”

The ornament design, which took her months to complete, includes a tractor, a silhouette of Abraham Lincoln and an outline of the Chicago skyline with the U.S. flag in the background. Each ornament is hand cast in a pewter-like metal from sand molds in Pennsylvania and then individually polished. It can also be used as a keychain or framed.

“Sand casting goes back to the Egyptian time, so it’s not a stamped-out process,” Schotthofer said. “With each one you get a little variation because of the sand.”

The bicentennial ornament represents the 18th in Schotthofer’s series called “Christmas Across America.” The series also features Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Williamsburg, North Dakota and Yellowstone, among others.

It’s available by mail or at the Hayloft Shops in Mossville, which Schotthofer owns with her mother, JoAnn.

The shops began in 1970 on the family’s farm in Peoria County. JoAnn was in a bad car accident and was taught how to do ceramics as part of her physical therapy. She received about $50 from the accident settlement and used it to fulfill her dream of opening a gift shop.

“She was so depressed,” Schotthofer recalled. “She told my dad: ‘All I want is a little gift shop. I’ve always wanted a little gift shop.’”

Her husband, Fred, built the small shop in the upstairs hayloft of the horse barn on their family farm. It began as gift shop for hand-painted, made-to-order ceramics.

The business, now in its 48th year, has evolved through the years. The business moved to Mossville, where today it includes a 2,500-square-foot gift/gourmet shop in a historic barn, a women’s apparel shop and an antique shop – all in separate buildings. Schotthofer remains a proud Wilton Armetale Showcase Dealer with the largest collection of serveware in the Midwest.

Schotthofer’s love of drawing traces back to her childhood.

“I can remember in grade school entering a poster contest and winning it. I always loved drawing. Now singing, forget it,” she said with a laugh.

She attended Lindenwood College in St. Louis on an art scholarship and left to go into business with her mom. The Peoria-area native has been designing in metal since 1977. She completed limited edition Christmas plates and other ornaments.

Fred and JoAnn are first-generation farmers. Fred was in the building business. The couple was looking to buy a house. JoAnn wanted a castle in Peoria.

“Our kids are going to grow up to be country club kids,” Schotthofer recalled her dad saying. “Is that what you want? And my mom said no.”

The couple decided to raise their kids in the country and bought a tenant farm on auction. Fred went out and bought about 25 Shetland ponies. Schotthofer recalled various groups, such as the Boy Scouts, coming out to the farm to train them. Schotthofer and her brothers learned how to ride horses, and showed horses and ponies as a family.

Fred served on the Peoria Farm Bureau Board. Her brother, Rick, currently serves on it. The grain and horse farm continues to operate today.

“Dad planted the seed in all of us,” she said. “I think it’s a wonderful way to raise a family.”

The limited edition Illinois bicentennial ornament can be purchased for $30. To order, visit the Hayloft Shops, call 800-900-9495 or visit hayloftshops.com.

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