“Honk,” the Jackson Hole Pop truck said.
“Whuuuunk,” replied a dump truck down Jean Street.
Then the sirens of a Teton County Sheriff’s Office truck added to the fracas.
So it went Sunday at Touch-A-Truck, perhaps the loudest fundraiser in town. Legions of children, parents in tow, jetted between huge trucks, the open museum space and the face-painting station, which was a hit, judging by the line of families waiting, including first grader Iris Bain, who wore golden cat ears atop her head.
Besides being an annual celebration of all things mechanical, Touch-A-Truck was the start of a new era and a reopening for the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum, the event’s host. After a decision to turn its former King Street location into workforce housing, the unmoored museum had to move, closing its doors April 26.
Teton County School District No. 1 stepped in to provide a temporary home in the portable buildings at Jackson Elementary School, developing a partnership that includes programming for its students in exchange for a favorable rent price.
“The permit is for two years, that’s all we know,” said Jean Lewis, the museum’s executive director. “There’s a chance we could be here longer, but we are actively looking for a forever home.”
Despite the uncertainty in the museum’s future, educators, staff and, most importantly, kids were excited about the new location. The main building houses exhibits and open craft spaces, and the second holds offices and the STEAM workshop, which will house the science, technology, engineering, art and math programming for schoolchildren as well as guided classes.
Separating the two spaces allows museum teachers to include new curriculums in their repertoire, like a new wall of hand tools.
“We couldn’t have hammering spaces at the old space, because if it wasn’t in use we had 3-year-olds in there,” Lewis said.
The museum’s main building still has many of the exhibits the old one did, including the store and “The Climber,” a jungle-gym type structure that had children crawling all over every climbable surface Sunday.
Educator Anna Luhrmann said parents told the museum in a survey that The Climber was one of their favorite exhibits. Another favorite that unfortunately couldn’t make the trip was the Jackson Hole Airport, which included an airplane that hung from the ceiling.
In a classroom in which most adults can touch the ceiling “it just wouldn’t fit,” Luhrmann said.
One challenge of the room is the large island in the middle with the bathrooms. Museum staff had to be creative, so its walls are painted with nature scenes, and each side represents a season. As summer rolls into fall, Luhrmann said, staff will work with kids to hang paper leaves in colors that reflect the shift, and similar ideas are planned for the winter side.
The time from closing the King Street location at the end of April to the reopening was short. Lewis said a couple more exhibits will open sometime by midsummer, one featuring Spring Creek Animal Hospital and a simple machine area funded by the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole.
From the STEAM workshop to the mercantile exhibit it’s clear museum staff hope the new space is a place children can come to learn real-life skills, even if they are having fun.
“We want this to be a space where kids can come and explore creativity, and actually do things,” Luhrmann said.