Photo and Article by Emily Jankauski: Education program specialist Katie Snyder showcases one of the many photo opportunities at the Museum of the Grand Prairie in her preparations for the museum’s New Year’s Eve celebration.
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Kicking off the New Year with a balloon drop and a countdown to noon, the Museum of the Grand Prairie invites Champaign County residents to party like it is 1900.
From 10:30 a.m. to noon Sunday, the museum’s free New Year’s Eve celebration will feature crafts, games and snacks for youths ages preschool to teens.
Last year, nearly 150 people attended the event, with the most popular portion being the noon countdown and balloon drop.
“You would have thought we were doing the New York Times Square ball drop,” education program specialist Katie Snyder said. “They were so excited.”
Activities include making drum noisemakers made out of oatmeal jars, writing New Year’s resolutions, creating paper crowns and decorating composition books for journals.
“We always try to use the I.D.E.A. Store,” Snyder said. “I try to make something for everyone.”
Snacks include clear punch and edible noisemakers made of sugar ice cream cones covered in frosting and sprinkles.
The Museum of the Grand Prairie remains closed during January and February with the exception of two events, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day, as the museum prepares for its new exhibit, entitled “’68.”
The year 1968 is when the museum opened its doors, but Snyder also referred to it as a “flash point year.” The new exhibit will feature a local Champaign County perspective of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, science and technology’s space race and pop culture’s music, toys and food.
“So many people are still alive and cognizant of the events in ’68,” Snyder said.
A former 20-year educator, Snyder’s fondest memory of working at the Museum of the Grand Prairie is watching children arrive at the “ah-ha moment.”
“When you see kids have that ‘ah-ha moment’ and they understand that this wasn’t a million years ago,” Snyder said of a recent Civil Rights field trip. “To see them then understand how we’re still going through it and how people responded (during the Civil Rights Movement) through arts and music.”
The “68” exhibit opens this spring and features public programming, such as concerts and other events. Snyder is most looking forward to Meagan Glaser’s exploration of history through food. Snyder first learned of Glaser’s ability to make history come alive through Glaser’s PechaKucha at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Illinois.
“A PechaKucha is a Japanese concept where people can come and share what they’re passionate about in a 20-slide presentation,” Snyder said. “She (Glaser) explores history through food and started doing so by having dinner parties with friends.”
Snyder said some of Glaser’s former dinner parties included food inspired from Jane Austin’s time. The museum’s education program specialist said Glaser’s 1968 food history exploration may involve the modern cultural food shift with items such as Jello or aerosol-canned cheese.
“We are your tax dollars at work,” Snyder said. “People from all over Champaign County come here. It’s a nice way for residents to find a little niche and get to know each other through these events.”
For more information about upcoming events at the Museum of the Grand Prairie, visit museumofthegrandprairie.org.