Seeing the sights without the expense

Published 6:00 am Monday, June 14, 2010

It was a day to get out and enjoy make family memories without the travel and the expense.

“The idea is … to make this an event that families can do close to home with little money, while making family memories,” said Cheryl Corey, executive director of the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Saturday marked the first Family Fun Day in Austin. Many Austin destinations were open to public tours and other fun events.

The Mower County Historical Society, Hormel Institute, Hormel Historic Home and Paramount Theatre held special weekend hours from 9 a.m. to noon The Spam Museum was open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Jay C. Hormel Nature Center also held its free Summer Solstice “EcoBlitz.”

Corey also described the weekend as a thank you to the community, especially places that have asked for community support lately like the Hormel Institute and the Hormel Historic home.

Historical Society executive director Dustin Heckman came up with the idea and modeled it off a similar day in Little Falls.

The day was a chance for people in the community to see a different side of the area attractions. Most people typically go to the Paramount Theatre for a show, and leave soon after. People don’t typically have a chance to tour the facility and see the backstage and projections areas. But, those were available to visitors Saturday.

“We thought it would just be a nice idea to have these places open to the community,” said Scott Anderson, operations manager at the Paramount.

Along with tours, the Paramount also had costumes from the Matchbox Children’s Theatre and people could dress up for pictures.

This year’s event was a bit of an experiment, and Corey said the plan is to make it a yearly event to be held in June.

Very little funding was dedicated to the project this year, and Corey said it could be expanded in future years to include more features.

Marlys Farris attended Family Fun Day during her first week of returning to Austin from San Antonio. She had a connection with the Hormel family, as she occasionally baby-sat for Chuck Golden, an employee for the Hormel family. She also remembers meeting Jay Hormel once.

She’d moved to San Antonio, but her hometown of Austin was never far from her memory.

“When we’d have parties, I always take a Spam spread,” Farris said. “Oh, I promote my town.”

Farris she wanted her friend, Ruth Heller, to see the Spam Museum before returning to San Antonio.

“It’s my first time in Minnesota, and I think it’s absolutely beautiful,” Heller said. “It’s just a delightful small community.”