Children scampered around the gazebo at the Santa Fe Depot on Saturday, the first free family day of the Temple Railroad and Heritage Museum since March.
“Dig It!” was the theme of the event, modified to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, said Jordan Kinsler, museum development assistant.
Normally held the first Saturday of every month, the free family day usually has activity tables and displays set up in the depot lobby, 315 W. Avenue B.
“By doing it this way, we are eliminating touching and not as many people in the building,” she said.
For each child, she and other museum workers handed out a packet of school crafts, a terrarium, a pinch pot, an activity book and material for an outdoor scavenger hunt near the gazebo. They also gave out a free pass for families to come back and visit the upstairs museum.
After receiving their materials, the families passed through the lobby and took up the scavenger hunt. Some of the younger children just ran around, occasionally being overhauled by an adult family member.
“With the COVID challenges, we’re glad to do this,” said Mike Hicks, museum director. “The weather cooperated. It’s the best alternative we can have for social distancing. We’re anxious to see how the first day goes.”
Augustine Guzman of Belton and his friend, Ruby Rodriguez of Temple guided her grandson Nilynn Rodriguez, 6, and granddaughter Carmen Rodriguez, 2, through the scavenger hunt.
“We came to the museum last summer,” he said. “They always have a good time. They like the trains. I promised them I’d buy them Amtrak tickets to ride to Dallas and back. That’s on hold.”
Hollie and Mick Joubert of Belton brought their daughter Sienna, 8.
“She was looking forward to it,” her mother said. “She loves dinosaurs, so it was perfect. She wants to be a paleontologist when she grows up. She likes to find fossils. She’s actually found several.”
Ilesia Lortz of Copperas Cove was keeping up with her children, Christian, 6, and Lillyann, 5. The scavenger hunt was for different artifacts, she said, such as bones, a vase and a spear head. This was their first time at the museum family day, which they saw on Facebook, she said, and they would definitely be back.
“This is nice,” she said. “Anything to get them outside and running around.”
Marsha Anderson of Killeen and her daughter, Samantha Wooley, worked as a team to keep up with her grandson, Wyatt, 2.
“He’s having fun playing on the playground and looking at the trains,” Anderson said. “We’ll probably take him home to do his activities. It’s just to get him out of the house.”
Caitlin Pollastro of Fort Hood watched over her energetic son, Dominic, 2. She said he was named the “Tiny Mister” in this year’s Copperas Cove royalty pageant, an annual scholarship program. The railroad museum is one of the pageant sponsors, she said.
“They do service projects,” she said of the pageant winners. “He’s collecting aluminum bottle caps for the Ronald McDonald House.”
The railroad museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 254-298-5172.