133 North Allegheny Street Bellefonte , Pa 16823
By Serge Bielanko
Back in the 70's when I was a kid you had maybe like three choices for your birthday party. You could have it at the house, probably down in the semi-finished 'rec room' basement that smelled like cigarettes and spilt Pabst Blue Ribbon. All your friends would come over and pin the tale on the donkey while your dad watched football and yelled at the TV and ignored you in between cracking Dr Peppers open for the guests.
Or you could go roller skating or bowling, each of which would exhaust your poor mom for a week, a little PTSD from the two solid hours of chaotic insanity she paid a hundred bucks to provide for you.
McDonald's was the other place. Remember those epic bashes? A 55 gallon drum of orange drink. Cheeseburger or hamburger. Happy Birthday sung by a dozen snotty third-graders tweaking out on sugar and carbs. Then pack the station wagon with your new Star Wars dolls and Incredible Hulk Underoos and head back home through that magic 1977 drizzle.
That was it.
You had a birthday part at one of those places or you didn't have one. Done deal. Maybe McDolads last year, so roller rink this year, but that was how it all went down.
These days: kids have WAY more choices. If you ask me, they're spoiled with selections really. Batting cages. Trampoline palaces. Escape rooms. Strip mall pottery joints where every kid can make their own jewelry dish shaped like a doughnut for what...$60 a kid?
You know what would make a great kid's birthday party?
I'll tell you. Eleven kids out in my backyard raking up the 50 million leaves that are about to fall down out of the trees. I blare some AC/DC on the bluetooth for their working pleasure while I holler directions at them on the megaphone I bought at a yard sale this summer. When they're done...if they're all sweaty and blotchy and not laughing, I order them a couple pizzas (NO TOPPINGS!), and a few bottles of Pepsi to bring 'em back to life. Maybe I bust out the off-market potato chips if I'm feeling festive. Then I bust out the Pepperidge Farm Remembers cake and they all sing Happy Birthday as they stare down at the burning first blisters they've ever seen on their soft, supple hands.
I dunno, $60? THAT"S what I'm talking about, people.
But whatever. I get it if you aren't into the Child Labor Party idea like I am. Fair enough. Lucky for you, I've been doing a little research on all this and guess what?
There's another local option that is both very affordable AND -and I hate to admit this- probably a lot more enjoyable for your kid and their friends. I'm talking about having your shindig at the Bellefonte Art Museum (BAM). Yep, you heard me. It's an honest-to-God thing. They will rent it out to you! Not just for birthday parties, either, mind you. According to the museum's Lori Fisher, they rent out this spectacular old house filled with one-of-a-kind relics and beautiful art for all kinds of events.
"Past events include holiday parties, birthday parties, private artist receptions," says Fisher. "Plus a wedding rehearsal dinner, a farm to table dinner, and we were even host to one local couple having an intimate wedding ceremony in our private garden."
Ummm. Okay, how cool would that be?
Married in the grand old Linn House, that majestic jewel of downtown Allegheny Street? She was built in 1810, she has a plethora of rooms and spaces, and best of all? She has more charm and grace in her little finger than me and you combined.
But I think the very coolest idea that can possibly happen down at BAM is throwing a birthday bash for a young person. It may not be the first place you'd imagine you'd celebrate a 5th grader's 11th birthday, but guess what? Fisher and her crew kind of love hosting these things. And they can offer party ideas for creative minds that far eclipse the standard hundreds of dollars to let kids bounce on their butts until they slam skulls with some giant middle school linebacker with the grace of a rodeo bull.
"Having a birthday celebration in our Children's Creativity Centre is a unique idea," Fisher explains. "Yeah, some kids like to celebrate by jumping on trampolines, crawling through obstacle tunnels, or swimming in ball pits, but those kids who have a more creative spirit want to celebrate their special day doing what they love. The museum provides an art inspired backdrop for kids to experiment with painting, drawing, jewelry making or playing in clay. We can pair the birthday boy or girl with an artist that is experienced in the medium of their choice and lead them as they create their own art during the party. They and their guests can then take their artwork home with them. On one occasion, we created a scavenger hunt throughout the museum for party goers to enjoy. This gets them moving around the museum and experiencing art in a interactive and fun way."
I don't know about you but that truly does sound like a memorable day for kids who have been there/ done that with all of these other party places. Learning from a real artist, creating an actual artwork that you can hang on your wall- and that doesn't mean Mom and Dad have to get a part-time job at night to pay for the event- this sounds incredibly cool to me.
'Events with Artistic Flair'.
That's what the museum's rental brochure says. And I dig the sound of that. Kid birthdays are typically celebrated in the Children's Creativity Centre, which features a LEGO wall, tons of LEGOS, and lots of art supplies to let budding Rembrandt's lose themselves in imagination.
And, between you and me, here's an idea they don't advertise, but who knows.
You have your birthday party there. You're old and your knee hurts like heck and you are about as far from feeling like a kid most of the time these days as anyone possibly could be.
There's still a fire inside of you, dude. I know there is.
So maybe you rent the LEGO room, tell them there is gonna be a party, but that it'll just be you and like 6 of your adult friends. Then you bring in some pizza and beers, maybe you break out the off-market chip action since it's your party and you'll do what you want. Then you play a little AC/DC on your Bluetooth and you and your people build stuff with LEGOS and draw each other with colored pencils. Heck maybe you even pay a bit extra and bring in a genuine oil painting artist to show you guys how to create a masterpiece of splotchy colors on a big old canvas that- when it finally dries- will be the one an only thing all your grandkids fight over when you finally kick the bucket down the road.
All for less than the price of a half hour of hard holiday shopping through the Amazon.com.
And you'll never ever forget it.
Which, let's face it, that counts for a lot these days.
The Bellefonte Art Museum offers a variety of different galleries and rental packages for just about any event you can think of. Please don't hesitate to contact them to discuss whatever it is you may have in mind.
Bellefonte Art Museum for Centre County
133 North Allegheny Street
Museum hours Friday, Saturday, & Sunday 12;00 - 4:30 p.m.
While at your visit to BAM, head up to the 3rd floor to witness Underground Railroad: A Journey to Freedom exhibit. That permanent feature highlights the escaped slaves who sought safe passage to freedom in the north via a secret network of people who wanted to help abolish slavery altogether.
*This exhibition is supported in part by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency fund-ed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.
The Bellefonte Art Museum is supported by the Central Pennsylvania Convention & Visitors Bureau. Learn more about the CPCVB by visiting www.visitpennstate.org.
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