HILL CITY, S.D. —
People started coming to see the bears at the hotel — bearing bears. Several visitors asked if she had contacted the Guinness World Records about her collection. In 2005, she sent in an itemized list, numbering 3,610 bears, and was told she had the largest teddy bear collection.
"I was ecstatic. I mean, I just shook," she said of the first record.
Since then, the collection has grown as people from all 50 states and 20 countries send her teddy bears, and she's appeared in the Guinness World Record book three times.
Miley partnered with Victor Alexander, who owns the hotel, to move the collection to a quaint house across the street that was built in 1895. There are so many bears that only about 4,000 can be displayed at Teddy Bear Town, Alexander said. The rest are stored in a nearby building, but he hopes to build on to the home soon so that as many as 20,000 bears can be easily displayed.
As curator of Teddy Bear Town, Miley greets visitors and happily shares her story of becoming the "bear lady." She points out the various locations of the bears in the store, which have been named after places in the Black Hills. The biker bears are on Beargis Rally Road, a nod to the famous motorcycle rally held in nearby Sturgis every August, while the sleeping bears are tired from walking the Mickelbear Trail. (The Mickelson Trail is a 109-mile trail from Edgemont to Deadwood.)
Miley is appreciative of every person who takes the time to send her a stuffed animal — even if it's not a bear, like what happened recently with Norman from Norway. The outside of the package said it was a teddy bear, and a letter inside said the sender hoped Miley didn't already have a similar bear.