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Art museum welcomes children with reception

December 14, 2008|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN -- Typical children's holiday celebrations, they are not.

While many places draw families with Christmas carols, glittery crafts and distribution of toy trinkets, the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts likes to shake things up.

During one Children's Holiday Reception in recent years, a fat, bright yellow snake was the star of the show. Another featured a bubbly magician wowing little ones with sleight of hand.

Saturday morning, families flocked to the 2008 Children's Holiday Reception to see "Secret Life of Rodents," a puppet show by the Signal Light Theatre of Silver Spring, Md. The show is based on the classic fable "Stone Soup," and is pared down to two characters - a well-traveled mouse and a squirrel who ultimately learns about the joy that comes from giving.

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Museum educator Amy Hunt called the receptions "mildly seasonal."

"We try to find something from the region that is holiday-oriented ... and geared toward young children," she said. "It really helps people get in the holiday spirit."

Hunt said the reception also is an effort to introduce children to the museum.

"We offer classes and programs for children as young as 2. This is another event to get children in the museum. The museum is for all ages, not just for adults," Hunt said. "This is an opportunity to start children young in getting comfortable with the museum environment."

While the receptions have unique features, they are not entirely without convention. Following the featured show, children line up for a picture with Santa Claus, then have cookies and punch.

Hunt said the event sold out of its 125 tickets for $2, as it does every year.

"We always have to turn people away. We always have a waiting list," Hunt said. "Next year, we would like to have a morning and an afternoon performance."

David and Joyce Leaman of Waynesboro, Pa., attended the event for the first time with their grandchildren, Mauriana, 4, Eli, 3, and Jaeven, 20 months, all of Greencastle, Pa. Eli and Mauriana take art classes at the museum. They were familiar with the story of "Secret Life of Rodents" because they had read "Stone Soup" at home. Mauriana said the squirrel puppet was her favorite part of the event.

"I like the mouse," Eli said. "And the cookies."

Audra Martenot of Hagerstown took her children, Armand, 9, and Annette, 6, to the event.

"We come every year. It's a great thing for kids and the show rotates every year," Martenot said. "They've had reptiles, magic, puppets ... They just go out of their way to have a really nice environment for kids."

Museum Director Rebecca Massie Lane said she was delighted with the response to the event.

"We are pleased to help celebrate the holidays," Lane said. "And we want to remind people that the museum is free. It's one thing people can do during hard economic times."

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