Burpee, Discovery Center give thanks

The view inside the Riverview Room. Photo by Elizabeth Cook

By Elizabeth Cook
Free-lance Writer
and Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher

As the result of an astounding community fund-raising drive in a down economy, Rockford’s Burpee Museum of Natural History and the Discovery Center Museum have expanded—“Connecting Our Future” was the capital campaign’s slogan. More than $10.5 million has been raised since 2004.

With 300 people in attendance, a donor recognition event was held July 12, to recognize and enjoy all the work done since the discovery of the juvenile Triceratops, Homer, and the new wing, Woodward Exhibition Hall. The new hall encompasses more than 5,200 square feet, which will feature many traveling exhibits sure to bring out the crowds in Rockford and bring in many people from around the region. Homer’s exhibit will be a re-creation of the camp where he was discovered in Montana.

Sarah Wolf, executive director of the Discovery Center, and Alan Brown, executive director of the Burpee Museum, welcomed and thanked all who made the expansion of their facilities possible. Their respective staffs and board directors were extensively thanked.

Wolf noted how the challenges of maintaining operations amid renovating existing facilities and expanding educational areas were achieved.

Burpee Natural History Museum also features a green rooftop garden on its entryway canopy. Photo by Elizabeth Cook

Other speakers for the evening were: U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16) and Freda Manzullo, honorary chairmen; Ken Edge, Sue Mroz, and Peter Provenzano, campaign co-chairmen; Don Mosser, chairman, COF Steering Committee; Gloria Lundin, president, Community Foundation of Northern Illinois; Martin Glass, president, Woodward Turbine Systems, and chairman, Woodward Charitable Trust; Scott Christiansen, chairman, Winnebago County Board; Jack Armstrong, board chairman, Rockford Park District; and Doug Mark, Third Ward alderman, on behalf of Mayor Larry Morrissey and the City of Rockford.

Various stories were told of the great community collaboration, with many people and organizations being recognized, such as Scandroli Construction, and Construction Manager Jeff Sunby. Alpine Bank’s President Rob Funderburg’s efforts were noted to match a Kresge $800,000 challenge grant, which met the goal of $10.5 million. With Winnebago County being one of the four $1 million contributors along with the City of Rockford, Woodward Governor and the Rockford Park District, Chairman Christiansen noted the county money came from the fees at the county landfill, thereby making every county taxpayer a “green” contributor to the effort.

Before and after the remarks, the donors enjoyed the unveiling of many new features, including the Riverview Room, which will be available for different private rental options, such as birthdays, wedding receptions and Super Bowl parties. The technical capabilities of the room are state of the art. The space seats up to 150 guests at tables and holds a maximum occupancy of 250 indoors, including a classroom for visiting students. The rental of the room includes access to exhibits for all guests, and the use of the catering kitchen and outdoor terrace. Pick up an application at Burpee Museum’s information desk to reserve the room.

The following businesses also contributed to the evening’s fare: A Better (ABC) Catering, Aramark, Beef-a-Roo, Ciao Bella, Cliffbreakers Riverside Resort, Der Rathskeller, Riverfront Museum Park, Royal Crown Catering, Dr. Stillwater, Swing Productions, UIC College of Medicine at Rockford and Woodman’s Food Market.

As a part of the River District’s Riverwalk complex and designed to be open also for Saturday and Sunday continental breakfasts, an expansive riverfront terrace is outlined with a limestone wall and capstones, designed with 750 commemorative bricks outlining the Burpee logo, which has been constructed in a spiral motif set in the terrace floor. These bricks celebrate the people who made the expansion possible. An amphitheater and docking facilities for the Forest City Queen are part of future plans.

The riverfront terrace (under construction), designed with 750 commemorative bricks outlining the Burpee logo. Photo by Elizabeth Cook

The Riverwalk will include the property behind the Discovery Center and enhance its outdoor features. Their expansion focuses on everything from beekeeping and other agricultural education (get on a tractor) to what it’s like to be in a commercial business, such as a restaurant. The Discovery Center Museum and Riverfront Museum Park had 237,783 visitors last year, and many remarks were made throughout the evening how the expansion of these two facilities would draw even more visitors and help secure and improve the success of the River District.

Visit the Discovery Center Museum at 711 N. Main St., Rockford. Admission is $7 for adults, $7 for children ages 2-17, and children younger than 2 and members are admitted for free. Summer hours are Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursdays until 7 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Call (815) 963-6769 for more information.

With 70,599 visitors last year for Burpee, this major phase involved moving and remodeling the dinosaur lab to improve the facility’s operation, storage and educational viewing. Visiting guests or students will be able to watch the excavation and re-creation of Homer from various plaster-cast fossils and talk to lab workers. A new filtration system is also included to catch all the plaster and dirt dust as the bones are unveiled, thus making “Dino Dust,” which may be available to the public.

The entire new Burpee wing features occupancy-sensored lights and drains (even the bathrooms). The new lab, exhibition hall and classrooms have been sealed with a type of special plastic and barrier wall that keeps out humidity while keeping a controlled atmosphere in place.

Want to be an archaeologist? Burpee provides five-day prospecting digs for discovering new specimens to add to the museum’s collection in either Montana or Utah. To join expedition trips, visit Burpee Museum’s information desk. The July 25-31 Montana trip has six slots open. For Aug. 1-7, the Montana trip has no slots open—it is full.

Visit Burpee Museum of Natural History at 711 N. Main St., Rockford. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m., daily. Admission is $6 for residents, $7 non-residents, $5 children ages 3-17, $6 non-resident children and free to members. For more information, call the museum at (815) 965-3433 or visit the museum’s Web site, www.burpee.org.

Burpee is ready to unveil its newly-constructed museum July 16 with a members’-only sneak peek, with a public opening the following day, July 17.
Other upcoming Burpee events include Bone Soiree, Burpee’s annual fund-raiser, Sept. 11, and the Grossology Traveling Exhibit, Oct. 2. Also watch for an announcement of an exhibit featuring the famous long-necked dinosaurs, the Diplodocus. Homer, the Triceratops, should be opening spring 2012.

From the July 14-20, 2010, issue

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