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Children’s Discovery Museum To Host Noon Year’s Eve In A New Way

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Beth Whisman
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The Association of Children’s Museums estimates around 30% of all children’s museums across the country will permanently close as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.";s:

The Children’s Discovery Museum will partner with more than 12 other museums and science centers in Illinois and Indiana to continue its annual tradition of providing local children with a Noon Year’s Eve countdown.

“This is a very new thing for us to collaborate on this scale. All children's museums have something special they do for the daytime for New Year’s. For at least 15 years now, we've been doing Noon Year’s Eve,” said Beth Whisman, the Town of Normal’s executive director of cultural arts and the museum.

“It's usually just independent museums doing their own thing. What we found, with COVID, and being closed for almost 300 days, across at least the state of Illinois, there are just a lot of small museums that don't have the capacity for staff or revenue right now, to provide their families with our annual tradition.”

Museum relationships 

Whisman said the CDM started talking to other museums about the possibilities of helping each other.

“That's just what museums do. We're a pretty collaborative industry to begin with, and especially children's museums, we kind of consider ourselves open source. We help each other as much as we can,” she said.

Traditionally, the CDM attracts about 1,000 people to Noon Year’s Eve, with a countdown at noon. Whisman said the Uptown museum hopes to reach even more people this year because it's free, and it's online. The Children's Museum of Chicago, the Terre Haute Children's Museum in Evansville and the Peoria Playhouse are expected to attract thousands more children this year. 

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Credit Beth Whisman
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Kids can still dance under confetti as 2021 arrives during Noon Year’s Eve at the Children’s Discovery Museum.

“We started realizing that the Restore Illinois plan was going to make us cancel," said Whisman. "The alternative opportunity that we had put together for the Children's Discovery Museum in Normal and things just started snowballing at that point, because we realized, OK, we cannot do an in-person event now. We're going to have to go online.” 

The inspiration behind the collaborative effort was the reciprocal membership that all CDM families have. If you are a Normal children's museum member, you have the opportunity to visit museums across Illinois and Indiana at a discount.

“We thought it would be fun to take the families to all the different museums on New Year’s and show them what we're doing to celebrate, even if we can't be there in person,” said Whisman. 

Music and activity kits

The CDM received a $2,500 sponsorship from Commerce Bank and Commerce Trust Company.

“This is not only giving the Children's Discovery Museum something special for our local families, but it's also helping our fellow museums that don't have the staffing and resources to provide this for their families,” said Whisman. “So we can do it together as a group and reach more kids. It just works and we're excited about it.”

This year’s celebration will focus on a free online Noon Year’s Eve Dance Party Countdown featuring The Awesome Squad, a children’s music group from Decatur. Noon Year’s Eve activity kits also are available from the Children’s Discovery Museum to help get the most out of the experience. Participants can sign up for activity kits online. Kits are $5.

“It'll be the live stream coming out of the Decatur Children's Museum of Illinois, they are actually hosting the band in their exhibit space,” said Whisman. “So they will be playing at the museum. And then all the other museums are going to be sharing what they're doing. Some of them will have a few kids, some of them will have their staff. It just depends on what they have available for them to show the celebration. The idea is kind of like, Beijing to London to New York, we're all in different locations, and we're all celebrating this special milestone.”

The free live stream begins at 11:30 a.m. local time on Thursday, Dec. 31, on the Children’s Discovery Museum’s YouTube channel.

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