Building starts on kids’ museum

Lydia Watkins Truxillo Gilbert
December 29, 2011
Linda Garrison Francis
December 31, 2011
Lydia Watkins Truxillo Gilbert
December 29, 2011
Linda Garrison Francis
December 31, 2011

Just in time for the holidays, Christy Naquin received fulfilling news.

Four banks, led by Synergy, collaborated to loan the Bayou Country Children’s Museum about $2 million, and museum officials have since replaced more than 12 years of dreams and anticipation with tangible construction.

“It’s like the best Christmas present ever,” said Naquin, the museum’s executive director.

The 12,700-square-foot facility, being constructed on 2.1 acres of leased property off Percy Brown Road in Thibodaux, should open its doors next fall, Naquin said.

In totality, it will cost about $3.5 million, just more than double the nearly $1.5 million the museum has raised in donations to this point.

When the doors are opened, the public will have access to the facilities and its 40-plus exhibits for a flat rate of $7. Groups who pre-register their visits will pay $5 per head. BCCM will target children aged 2 to 12.

The south Louisiana lifestyle will be on display and featured in exhibits such as water estuary tables that teach coastal erosion, a sugar cane harvester and maze, an alligator Mardi Gras float, an oil derrick and a shrimp boat.

Rouse’s has agreed to sponsor a farmer’s market as the museum’s grocery store, Naquin said, and Thibodaux Regional Medical Center recently made a donation to the museum’s health and wellness exhibit.

Bayou Country aims to serve eight parishes: Assumption, Ascension, Lafourche, St. Charles, St James, St. John, St. Mary and Terrebonne. Museum officials said they are also working to forge relationships with school districts.

“The primary two [goals] are to continue what they are teaching in the classroom away from the classroom and the second was to have an accessible field trip destination,” said Kathleen Gros, president of the BCCM board of directors, in June.

The museum will also include two party rooms, a small theater that shows mini-movies and conference rooms where businesses can conduct off-site meetings.

Naquin said museum officials are developing an employment position for an education coordinator, who would schedule field trips and develop additional programming for the exhibits, which should be flexible enough to meet Grade Level Expectations for multiple class levels.

“Obviously, the exhibits are not going to be ever-changing, but you have to do things to make all of those exhibits interesting each time and make sure people want to come back to see you,” Naquin said.

The museum acquired its property at a charitable rate. Jaron Land Development, co-owned by local businessmen Jacob Giardina and Ron Adams, agreed in April to lease the property to Bayou Country for 80 years and $1.

Byron Talbot Construction Company, the general contractor, said construction should be finished within eight months. Paulus Designs is concurrently fabricating the exhibits.

While construction is ongoing, BCCM will continue to accept donations and look for grant opportunities, which should be more abundant now that the ground has been broken.

“Although it’s been going on for 12 to 13 years, I can say that the list of past board members have never wavered from the mission, and because of them, we are where we are today,” Naquin said.

Construction has begun off Percy Brown Road in Thibodaux on the Bayou Country Children’s Museum. The museum is expected to open in the fall of 2012. COURTESY PHOTO