PERU - The fi rst year in business for the Babbie Rural and Farm Learning Museum was a good one.
Rick Laurin, who founded the museum with his uncle, Leeward Babbie, said he was impressed with the turnout the museum has seen since it opened last June.
"It was just a great year, as far as the number of people through," said Laurin.
According to the register signed by visitors to the museum, 2,036 individuals visited the River Road facility through the museum's seasonal closure Nov. 1. Another 236 were recorded as visiting with a group.
"We had school kids from Peru, Beekmantown, Chazy ... and we had Cub Scouts from Keeseville," said Laurin, noting overall, 13 percent of registered visitors were from outside Clinton County.
"We all know not everyone actually signed in, so I believe these are conservative numbers," he added. "And, I know we had three or four people that came back at least three times."
What's added to the attraction of the museum is the fact it is a "hands-on" facility, encouraging children and adults alike to interact with exhibits, said Laurin.
"We would put five or six kids on a rope and they would all pull a bale of hay up to the hay mow and slide it in," he said. "We had stations for kids where they would do scavenger hunts for items and our guides would explain them. It's been very interactive, which I think gives us a slight advantage over other museums."
Creating that interaction also allows people to see how even more difficult life was on a farm from the 1800s to even just a few decades ago.
"Teaching these kids and seeing their reactions is just phenomenal," said Laurin. "We enjoy the heck out of it."
Though the museum has been enjoyed and attendance was reasonable for its first year, Laurin said he'd like to see an even bigger year when the museum reopens in the spring.
"We are struggling a lit bit financially, like every museum is. But, we're hanging in there and we will hang in there," said Laurin.
The board which oversees the operation of the museum is now planning for what the facility will offer when it reopens, including new exhibits and bringing back popular attractions like the hay bale-lifting exhibit and stage coach rides.
"There's just a lot of work to do," said Laurin, who said day-to-day operations will now be handled by Babbie while he oversees more of the "behind the scenes" tasks.
Laurin said he would just like to see more schools take advantage of having a place where kids can truly touch history.
"We're close for the schools and for only a couple dollars a child it's a reasonable thing," he said. "Having this here is invaluable for the community."
Donations, said Laurin, will greatly help offset the cost of operating the museum. Contributions to the museum may be mailed in care of Babbie Rural and Farm Learning Museum, 250 River Road, Peru N.Y. 12972. More information about the museum may be found on-line at http://sites.google.com/ site/babbieruralfarmlearningmuseum or by calling 643-8052.