Originally published on April 27
LAKEVILLE, Minn. (WCCO) -- From the wacky to the wild, there's a place in Lakeville that has it all.
Movie props and discarded junk have turned Hot Sam's Antiques into a photographer's paradise.
There's a dignified-looking pheasant perched high above Interstate 35 in Lakeville. But this is no ordinary bird. The pheasant and the parrot next to it are gatekeepers to one of the most interesting places in Minnesota.
"Me being a sucker for a piece of junk, I kept buying these crazy things that we could bring on the property and set up," said Jake Hood.
At Hot Sam's Antiques and Foto Park you'll find dinosaurs, rockets, beach cabanas and aliens.
Jake and his mother Gladys built this park about 35 years ago. Gladys herself was a bit of a novelty. She was a women's NASCAR champion in the 1950s, where she got the nickname "Hot Sam." Gladys would go to junkyards to fix her race cars, and come back with oddities.
"My mom was basically a collector of just about anything she could drag home," said Jake. "She was so happy. I couldn't deny her anything."
The mother-son duo built a giant knick-knack dynasty. But when Gladys passed away in 2010, Jake was heartbroken. He lost interest in the park for a while. Ultimately it was the people, not the props, that brought him back.
"They would came back constantly and just tell me how much they enjoyed coming out with their children and what-not. And so I got kind of re-inspired," said Jake. "Pretty soon the ideas just started pouring out of the sky for me."
With help from his dog and his partner Kathleen Sakry, Jake continues to tinker and build.
"It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun," said Sakry.
During the winters they head south to visit movie sets and junkyards.
"We load up a trailer full of all kinds of craziness that we come by," said Jake.
That includes the original shark prototype for the movie Jaws.
"There was no fins on it. It was broke in half, and I looked at it and said that's a salvage job if I've ever seen one," Jake said.
For Minnesota history buffs, Jake has the old Northfield jail from 1891. He recovered it from a scrap yard.
"They got that right after Jesse James came through town," said Jake.
Nowadays, people will come out to take senior pictures and wedding photos, often gravitating to a 107-year-old caboose.
"We get lots of smiles. Everybody likes to smile," said Sakry.
That includes the first customer of the year. Gary Lux drove all the way from St. Joseph, Missouri.
"They make such fun things out of just nothing, or I hate to say junk, but it's not junk after he put it together like that," said Lux.
After his mom died, a friend told Jake something that's stuck with him.
"Try not to look in the distance for your happiness. He says grow your happiness under your feet," said Jake.
And he has. Jake's pretty sure his mother would be proud. His goal is simple: give people something to smile about just like mom did.
"I want them to have a smile on their face when they come up the driveway, and I want them to leave with that smile," said Jake. "And I just want to provide a safe haven or a refuge for happiness."
Hot Sam's will open for the year this Saturday. For more information, click here.
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