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Holiday fundraising efforts hope to open museum doors

Tea with Mrs. Claus portraits (shown above) are available for any child as a part of fundraising efforts for the opening of the new Amelia Park Children's Museum. The 5 x 7 Victorian portraits will be taken by Denise Smith Photography on Dec. 2. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD Rushed Polaroids of children with jolly old Saint Nick have become a staple at malls across the country each holiday season. But what if parents could skip that hectic trip to the mall and trade it in for a relaxing afternoon portrait with Mrs. Claus?

In an effort to raise money to officially open their new facility on South Broad Street, officials at the Amelia Park Children's Museum have organized two new fundraising efforts to kick off the holiday season for families in the area.

On Dec. 1, The Comical Mystery Tour will entertain families at the museum with their mystery play "Grandma Got Runned Over By a.Oh Dear!" The following day, children will be able to have their holiday portrait taken while having tea with Mrs. Claus.

Christina Gezotis, fundraising events coordinator for the Amelia Park Children's Museum, said these events will not only help to raise much-needed funds for the museum's operating costs but also give the public a special opportunity to view the new facility and exhibits currently being built.

She added that currently the new facility has 20 percent of the exhibits installed but that additional funds are needed to finance the construction of the additional exhibits.

According to information released by the Amelia Park Children's Museum, the total cost for the new exhibits is $750,000 and the museum has raised $626,000 thus far.

The newest fundraising event on the museum's schedule is an interactive mystery dinner theater written and performed by local theater group The Comical Mystery Tour. The play, "Grandma Got Runned Over By a.Oh Dear!" is a classic "who done it" tale of the Klawes holiday family reunion, where each of the characters could be the one who ran over grandma with a John Deere tractor but it's up to the audience to solve the mystery for themselves.

"We have two rules [at our shows]. One, to have fun. And two, to sit there and really pay attention to what happens and try to figure out who done it. And if that doesn't work, go back to rule one," Ken Adams, owner, director and producer of The Comical Mystery Tour, said.

He added that the show will be as interactive as each audience member chooses it to be as they will be singing several Christmas Carols with the audience and leave them clues to figure out "who done it."

The dinner theater will take place at the museum's new location at 29 South Broad St. with a silent auction beginning before the show at 6 p.m. Silent auction items include an overnight stay at The Homewood Suites, Peter Pan bus tickets to Foxwoods Resort and Casino, a Pilgrim Candle gift basket and a Mobil gas card. Seating will begin at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 per person.

The following day, children will have the opportunity to spice up their holiday picture by turning it into a Victorian portrait while having tea with Mrs. Claus.

Molly Watson, vice president of the board of directors of the Amelia Park Children's Museum, said the aim of this fundraising event is to "create a special place" for children to meet Mrs. Claus during the holidays. She added that the event will also expose children to the exhibits currently at the museum such as the Big Y exhibit and the music exhibit.

Each of the exhibits currently installed and the future exhibits such the live animal exhibit, teach children various aspects of the world around them. Gezotis said the future exhibits on Main Street will feature a post office, bank, theater stage and hospital where children can learn about daily life as they play.

At the Big Y, museumgoers will have the ability to shop for items and cash out their groceries. The live animal exhibit will feature animals such as sea urchins, chinchillas and iguanas.

"At the Amelia Park Children's Museum we want to provide programming for communities that are educational and different," Watson said. "We are not a Chuck E. Cheese and we are not trying to be but people are looking for experiences like that and we provide an educational component that they wouldn't get there."

Tickets for Tea with Mrs. Claus are $30 per family and include activities for children while they wait to have their portrait taken. Activities include making holiday ornaments and decorating gingerbread cookies. Two sessions are available from 9:30 a.m. 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 4:30 p.m.

Future fundraising events for the museum will include the Penguin Plunge on Jan. 26, where for a pledge of $50 or more people will have the opportunity to brave the cold and plunge into Congamond Lake.

Sponsorship and naming opportunities are also available for the remaining exhibits not yet under construction.

For more information about the Amelia Park Children's Museum visit their Web site at For more information about "Grandma Got Runned Over By a.Oh Dear!" or The Comical Mystery Tour go to their Web site at