Children, adults enjoy opening of Discovery Playhouse on Broadway

Thursday, April 22, 2010 ~ Updated 12:10 AM
Emilie Dickson tries a hula hoop Thursday, April 22, 2010 at the Discovery Playhouse. (Fred Lynch)

Within minutes after the doors opened Thursday at The Discovery Playhouse, a children's museum, children were swarming over the big plastic animals in the window, using the pneumatic tube at the play bank and ringing up groceries at the supermarket.

But a look around the room showed that the smiles on the adults on hand -- many who had put in long volunteer hours to bring the museum to life -- were as big, if not bigger, than those on the children themselves.

"It is a hoot!" said Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape as she watched children dash from exhibit to exhibit.

The first child in the door was Emilie Dickson, 4, who came with her mother, Brynda Dickson. They decided to attend opening day, Brynda Dickson said, after hearing about the museum during a visit to the library.

They made the morning visit before her daughter was scheduled to go to her preschool classroom.

"My daughter said, 'I want to go,' and although she usually sleeps until 10, she came in before 9 and I got her fed and out the door," she said.

Emilie really liked the grocery display, sponsored by Schnucks, Brynda Dickson said. "She asked, 'I can put in anything I want?' and she chose flowers and a lot of other nonpractical things. It's great."

The Discovery Playhouse, 502 Broadway, has been in the works for more than two years. The first version was at the West Park Mall, where city planner Martha Brown said the group considering the idea wanted to test the popularity of a museum before pushing ahead. The mall location was popular but too small for school groups.

After one false start on a new location, the organizers found the empty 502 Broadway location and, with incentives from state tax credits, leveraged community donations to renovate.

"The thing that is really remarkable is the amount of community effort that has gone into it," Brown said.

The newly opened museum has plenty of room for groups, offering itself as a place for birthday parties and field trips. The first group in the door Thursday was from Community Day School, a class that includes interim executive director Janet Livingston's son Jonathan. It was actually Jonathan who, through talking about the museum, spurred the visit by the 16 children age 3 to 5, said Kathy Moore of the school.

"He got the class really excited," she said.

Jacob Miller and Marlette Southall found something they liked -- the dentist's office. While Southall sat at the desk to take appointments, Miller waited for pretend dental work in the full-sized chair.

Livingston said she loves her job and, when no one is around, tries out things herself. "The Dizzy Disc is pretty cool," she said, talking about a platform that rotates while the rider tries to stay balanced.

The museum opened Thursday but has hosted a few private parties before opening day. The groups gave the mostly volunteer staff a chance to see how children react and, Livingston said, learn something about how creative the children will be with the exhibits.

"We had one group in this weekend, all boys, and they decided to rob the bank," Livingston said with a smile.

The bank and grocery appear to be among the most popular exhibits, she said.

The museum is the first new attraction on Broadway that is consistent with the ideas established in the DREAM Initiative plan for the Broadway corridor. As he swept in front of Horizon Screen Printing a few doors away, owner Glenn Reeves looked over at the new museum and said he's glad to see it.

"It will be a fantastic asset for downtown Cape Girardeau," Reeves said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

502 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Want to go?

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday

10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday

1 to 5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $4, ages 2 and up

Map of pertinent addresses

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