BURLINGTON — The pattering of tiny shoes and shrieks of laughter blended together with the smell of new construction as the Children’s Museum of Skagit County re-opened its doors Saturday at the Outlet Shoppes at Burlington.

After a nearly two-week closure, museum staff, volunteers and board members welcomed families into phase one of the museum’s transformation.

“It was really a blessing in disguise that the (Cascade) mall asked us to leave,” administrative facilities coordinator Sam Thompson said. “Looking around, you can see it was meant to be.”

The new space, which currently occupies about 8,500 square feet, is spacious, inviting and full of natural light thanks to large windows that face the outdoors.

When construction is completed, the space will span 15,400 square feet — 4,000 more than the museum’s former location of nearly 11 years.

It’s quite the change from the museum’s previous home where the windows looked out to the mall, museum visitor LeAnna Badillo said.

“This one is much more open and brighter,” she said as her two kids enjoyed the museum’s new exhibits.

Across from the exhibit and play area that will eventually become an event space, 4-year-old Roxy Badillo intently played in the pets and vets station.

The tiny veterinarian moved quickly around the exam tables, stethoscopes and medical scrubs in order to place every single stuffed animal into a cage. She said this was necessary to protect them from an emergency.

The pets and vets station is one of many new exhibits requested by members, Thompson said. Others include dinosaurs, construction and spring flowers.

Other museum highlights include improved spaces for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) learning, a larger preschool classroom, a more spacious toy store, a breast-feeding room and a refreshed art studio.

Speaking of the studio, Executive Director Cate Anderson said the museum changed the tone of the space to give young kids, older kids and adults a comfortable area to create art.

In the coming months, portions of the museum’s mall location will be demolished to allow for large pieces such as the boat and crane to be moved into their new home.

Phase two of construction will continue until the remaining 7,000 square feet are completed, with a grand opening slated for late spring.

Surrounded by children in the main play area, Kate Simmons, the grants, programs and exhibits coordinator, surveyed the museum’s new home.

“I love the new space,” she said. “This is only the beginning.”

— Reporter Leah Allen: 360-416-2149, lallen@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Leah_SVH

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