Annual event gives families chance to play in snow, support Children’s Museum
A chance to frolic in snow in Santa Rosa was so enticing for the hundreds of kids and their families who visited the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County on Sunday that they gladly overlooked the breezy conditions and drizzling rain.
For the third consecutive year, the nonprofit hosted its Snow Days event over the extended Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend to raise money and bring the rare experience to local children. Over the three days, a total of 50 tons of the white stuff will be trucked in so kids can have their hand at snow angels and sledding down a 30-foot snowbank.
“We know that we have children living in Santa Rosa who can’t go on ski vacations. They’re not driving five hours to Tahoe,” said Jenny Levine-Smith, the museum’s board president. “For some of these kids, it’s their first time touching snow, and it’s kind of amazing and magical.”
Narda Garcia, 22, learned of the event on Facebook and decided to surprise her 5-year-old brother, Adran, with tickets. It was only his second time on snow after being introduced to it on New Year’s Day during a family trip to the mountains.
Decked out in a red Angry Birds-themed knit cap and puffy coat, Adran swerved down the hay bale-lined snow chute aboard a neon orange saucer donated to the museum by local sporting goods stores. He laughed and smiled after rounding a C-curve and crashing into a bale while his sister took video on her cellphone. Then he gathered himself and scurried up the hill to do it all over again.
“I just fell over,” Adran said, brimming with excitement. “I went down and I just, like, zoom.”
Drawing more than 1,500 guests Saturday and another 1,300 Sunday, Snow Days quickly has grown into the museum’s most popular event of the year, said Solina Larum, the events manager. They’re hoping for another large crowd Monday with warmer weather and to surpass last year’s three-day attendance of about 3,400 attendees.
The event is important to the venue - which was founded in 2014 after nine years functioning as a mobile museum that visited schools, libraries and festivals - so it can offer free or reduced admission to underserved, low-income populations. The fundraiser brings in 5 to 10 percent of the annual revenues that support that programming, according to museum CEO and founder Collette Michaud.
“We never turn anybody away, so we need to cover that gap by fundraising,” Levine-Smith said. “This is one of the ways we raise money.”
While families lined up under temporary tents in the museum’s back area to wait for their turn to sled down the hill, others around noon Sunday took a break and grabbed a slice of pizza for sale or treated themselves to coffee or hot cocoa. Many kids couldn’t be bothered with snacks, though, wanting to make the most of the limited window to revel in the cold-weather activities.
Longtime Sonoma County resident Heather Harper, now of Sebastopol, brought her 4-year-old son, Rowan, to the event for the second year. Before racing off to the snow hill, which Rowan was most excited about, the two spent time in the Snow Bunnies tent building a miniature snowman while most kids made and tossed petite snowballs and slipped around on the packed ice.
After finishing the project, complete with twigs for arms, stones for eyes and a full carrot for a nose, Rowan’s mother was unable to coax him into standing still for a picture. He preferred to get onto a plastic saucer as soon as possible, though he finally agreed to hover over the snowman while she snapped a photo prior to Rowan stomping it into pieces with his black rain boots.
“OK,” she said, directing him over to the sledding hill, “mission accomplished.”
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @kfixler.