Leaving the Bears behind; Mariska leaving Berenstain collection back in Austin

Published 10:36 am Friday, August 12, 2016

Former Austin High School band director Bradley Mariska holds the record for the largest collection of Berenstain Bears memorabilia and now he’s opening a year-long exhibit located inside Sweet Reads starting with a reception from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m this Saturday.

Mariska started collecting, which is in the process of being formalized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest such collection, when he was a boy and wanted the full Berenstain Bear book collection. When Mariska discovered Ebay, he began collecting more than just books.

Now the collection holds puzzles, board games, CDs, figurines and more. Mariska also owns the Berenstain Bears original books from the 1950s. The collection has expanded to include about 99 percent of officially licensed Berestain Bears items. Mariska is currently in search for the “Berenstain Bears Fun Book No. 350” by the Golden Company, which is known as the “holy grail” for the Berenstain Bears collectors.

Mariska, who has moved to Farmington, Minnesota, to be the high school’s band director, left his collection behind where it will be displayed inside Sweet Reads.

Bradley Mariska’s Berenstain Bears collection will now be on display at Sweet Reads on Main Street. -- Herald file photo

Bradley Mariska’s Berenstain Bears collection will now be on display at Sweet Reads on Main Street. — Herald file photo

“He’s made such an impact,” said Lisa Deyo, owner of Sweet Reads. “It’s a piece of Brad we can cherish.”

Stories about the collection, food and a meet-and-greet with Mariska, will all be featured at the grand opening this weekend.

“We’re super excited because its a family event,” Deyo said. “Berenstain Bears is loved by every age group — it meets everybody’s interest.” Deyo said.

Before the open house takes place, Phil Gonzalez, who is partnering with Mariska, will be recording an invite-only podcast, held inside of Sweet Reads.