OLYMPIA – Headed to Washington’s West Side? The Hands on Children’s Museum “Summer Splash Festival of Fun” begins this weekend after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event begins on June 25 and will have different activities throughout summer until Sept. 5. Each week will bring new events for families, including special guests, animal visitors and stage performers.
Hands on Children’s Museum’s Marketing and Communications Senior Manager Beth Garson said the goal of the event is to mitigate against learning loss during the summer with a number of activities ranging from learning fire safety to making art.
“Every week, we have a schedule that is just packed with special guests, animal visitors and stage performers so that we give kids and families a new adventure every week,” Garson said.
Outside the museum on Jefferson Street, children can ride the fire truck, police cruiser and emergency vehicles. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., kids can meet first responders, Smokey the bear and Sparky the fire dog and go through a firefighter obstacle course. The street festival will have food and free ice cream from 12-3 p.m. Everything held on Jefferson Street is free for all to enjoy.
The carry-over activities in the Hands on Children’s Museum will require online registration for members or admission fees. In the museum, children will have a range of available activities such as science experiments with Dr. Science, lego-building with lego artist Dan Parker, animal interaction at a petting zoo and painting with local painter Isobel Coney.
Kids will also be able to create their own sail boats out of recycled materials, learn about the importance of bees from the Olympia BeeKeepers Association, create their own toy to take home with Rick Hartman’s toy building workshop and learn how to make their own playground with tree trunks, wood cookies and rope.
Also in the museum, there will also be a climbing wall in August, a castle that kids can paint and soft skating, where children can skate in their socks. Kids can also make mud pies on Mondays and learn how to safely use kitchen appliances on Tuesdays.
A new addition to the museum is a sensory room that will allow children who may be overwhelmed by the museum environment an opportunity to relax in a quiet and safe area.
Performers during the summer include The Falconer, a company run by John Prucich that works with birds of prey. Prucich will be at the festival with his birds in order to teach kids about the role of raptors and their part in the ecosystem.
Magician Jeff Evans will also be at the festival and will be performing at different times of the day while doing close-up magic on the street. Native storyteller Ista Shash from the Nisqually Indian Tribe will be at the museum to tell Native stories and fables to the children.
At the end of the summer, the Hands on Children’s Museum will have a Summer Splash gala for members of the museum. This will act as the fundraiser for the museum, which will provide for the free and reduced access programs.
Garson said that people should be able to enjoy the museum no matter their ability to pay, and there will be a few opportunities for families and children to participate without having to spend too much during the summer.
“Everything that we do for Summer Splash is all to fund our free and reduced access programs at the museum,” Garson said. “We have 26 of those. One of the best known is the First Friday night program. We stay open late from 4 to 8 p.m. and everybody gets to play for just a dollar. Our normal admission price is $15.95.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer Splash festival had around 350,000 visitors a year, and Visitor Engagement Assistant Manager Madison Peters said she is looking forward to being able to offer families a lot of fun opportunities this summer. She said she loved seeing one girl spend five days in a row at the event, doing different activities each day with her grandmother.
“The following year, they came back,” Peters said. “She came up to me and said, ‘Do you remember me?’ It was wonderful. They were so enthralled with everything and just happy to be back. I hope that I see her again this summer.”