Children's Museum Party Is Child's Play

Tickle a grown-up and a child will wiggle out. That was the message Saturday at the "Fun-Raiser" for the Children's Museum at La Habra.

Held in Bob and Martha Fluor's balloon-filled yard in Newport Beach, the event prompted guests to skip back to the days of dolls and Tinkertoys.

Enjoying a night scented with popcorn, "born-again" kids faced child-size decisions: whether to have roses or hearts painted on their cheeks, whether to have Rainbow, the clown, twist a poodle or cat shape out of their balloons.

But the 130 guests, who paid $50 each to support the museum's building expansion project, found plenty of time to try everything. Before the night was out, they'd dined on hamburgers and ice cream mud pies, played musical chairs, danced, run relays and built cities out of Lego blocks.

The party was the inspiration of Marcia Giesler, the museum's director of development.

"We wanted people to feel the kid's world again," she said. "It's what the museum's about--a relaxed, unintimidating, learning atmosphere."

Accordingly, museum guild president Barbara Grider and her husband, Bob, came as Mouseketeers. Gayle Anderson, a party committee member, wore a frilly, baby-doll dress and clutched a teddy bear. Her husband, Robert, sported knee socks and carried a sandwich in a lunch box.

But amid the silliness, there was serious talk about the value of the museum, which opened 10 years ago. Esther Cramer, a founding member of the museum, has watched it grow, she said, from "an idea about what to do with an old train depot" to a 3,000-square-foot center that annually serves 100,000 children.

The museum has four permanent galleries (which include a working carrousel and a train caboose) and one temporary exhibit. All exhibits, said museum director Cathy Michaels, are hands-on learning environments designed to excite children about the world through direct experience.

The popularity of its exhibits, said Marcia Giesler, forces the museum to turn away 300 schoolchildren each day. The $500,000 expansion project, scheduled to begin this fall, will add 8,000 square feet, Giesler said, allowing the museum to accommodate twice as many visitors.

Bob Fluor, vice president of corporate relations at Fluor Corp., said the Fluor Foundation had made a grant to the project and will provide volunteers to complete finishing work on the construction.

One of the night's most enthusiastic guests--and the object of much enthusiasm himself--was former baseball pitching great Jim (Mudcat) Grant. Wearing his Minnesota Twins uniform, Grant, who retired from baseball in 1972, described his plan to involve other major league ballplayers in organizing an exhibit of baseball memorabilia for the Children's Museum.

He had high praise for a party that offered grown-ups "the privilege" to be small again. "We all act like kids anyway," he said.

Other guests included Fred and Eva Schneider, Bernice and Bill Hird, Don and Dolly Karcher, Anne Nutt, Ted and Joy Jones, Paul and Beverly Salata and Louise Pomeroy.

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