Becker County Museum's grand opening celebration set for Feb. 17

Visitors can explore the new science center, gift shop, recording studio and conference center, though some areas on the main floor will remain closed for the time being.

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This giant Pixel Pegs board is one of several new interactive exhibits that will greet visitors to the new Becker County Museum at its grand opening celebration on Friday, Feb. 17.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

DETROIT LAKES — Though there are still a few areas of the new building still under construction, the staff of the Becker County Museum is ready and willing to celebrate its grand opening on Friday, Feb. 17.

From 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., visitors can come inside and explore the new science center, gift shop, recording studio and conference center, though some areas on the main floor will remain closed for the time being.

"It's going to be a phased opening," explained Becky Mitchell, the museum's executive director. Late this spring or early summer, there will be another open house, when the other areas of the museum, such as its main exhibit hall and expanded research library, will be showcased.

The museum's science center, however, will be fully operational for the grand opening, she added. Located on the second floor, it includes a variety of interactive exhibits as well as a technology lab, learning lab, and even a "calming space" with soft lighting, comfy chairs and a "Minnesota campfire" theme, where kids and adults alike can go to get their zen on when in need of a little inner peace.

"We wanted a space that would appeal to everyone, from a 4-year-old to an 84-year-old," said Mitchell of the calming room.


Other areas in the science center are meant to stimulate the imagination in a variety of ways. There's a large black peg board, lighted from behind, where visitors can push in some colored "Pixel Pegs" to create a lighted "Welcome" sign or smiley face, or any other pattern that tickles their fancy.

"It's like a giant 'Lite Brite,'" said Mitchell, referring to the classic Hasbro game.

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Becker County Museum Executive Director Becky Mitchell examines the display on an augmented reality sandbox to get it ready for visitors. This exhibit will be one of several open for visitors to explore at the museum's grand opening on Friday, Feb. 17.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

In another area, there's a sandbox — but not just any sandbox. This one is equipped with augmented reality technology, which can project topographical images onto the sand that mimic water, lava, rain — or even the surface of another planet.

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This augmented reality sandbox can project a topographical image onto the sand that shifts as the sand is moved from one part of the box to the other — mounds of sand can become volcanoes, while depressions can become a body of water. It is one of several interactive exhibits that will be on display at the Becker County Museum's grand opening celebration on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"My daughter likes that one a lot," said Mitchell.

There's also an augmented reality game board, virtual reality glasses, and several other fun exhibits to try.

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This augmented reality game board is one of several interactive exhibits that will be on display at the new Becker County Museum during its grand opening celebration on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Inside the technology lab, there are 3D printers, laser engravers, a "water jet CNC machine," and other tools, which will be used for the museum's robotics and coding camps as well as other technology-based activities. The other classroom on the second floor, the learning lab, is a large, 30x40-inch room equipped with sinks and smart boards that can be used for everything from art classes to STEM and STEAM camps.

And speaking of smart boards, both classrooms will be equipped with something called a "Promethean board" — "It's like the Cadillac of smart boards," Mitchell explained. "You can cast up to 15 devices onto the screen at one time ... it can also be used as a whiteboard."

Other areas that will be available for exploring during the grand opening include the gift shop — which in addition to all the traditional books, games and other gifts that were available in the old museum, will also have a "stuff-a-bear" type space that can be used to create pretty much any kind of stuffed animal, from teddy bears to dragons and unicorns.


"For the opening, we will also have little Polar Fest t-shirts for the stuffed animals," Mitchell said.

But the Feb. 17 event won't be the only opportunity to check out the museum during Polar Fest, she added. The museum is also hosting a couple of other events during the festival, the first of which will take place this Friday, Feb. 10.

Titled "Boys Night Out," it will run from 6 to 9 p.m., concurrently with the Daddy's Little Sweetheart Dance being held at the Historic Holmes Theatre. And just like that event is geared toward girls ages 2-12 and their dads, granddads or special friends, the Boys Night Out is open to boys and their moms, grandmas or other special ladies in their lives. Tickets can be purchased via the Becker County Museum's online store, which can be found on its website, . The evening will include games, munchies, and an opportunity to check out all the science center's exhibits.

The other event is one that is familiar to Polar Fest attendees from years past. Titled Chocolate Fantasy, this event on Tuesday, Feb. 13 will feature hundreds of trays filled with chocolate treats of every description, prepared by local restaurants and grocery stores just for the event. Visitors can come in and fill their trays between 5 and 7 p.m., then take them home to enjoy. Or if unable to attend the in-person event, you can arrange to have a tray filled for you, to be picked up or delivered on Tuesday, Feb. 14 — Valentine's Day. Orders must be made prior to noon on Feb. 14 in order to be delivered to homes or businesses in Becker County. Delivery or pickup will take place that Wednesday from 12 to 4 p.m.

Though the museum is not yet open to the public, Mitchell said they will begin having regular hours again sometime soon after the grand opening (no definite date has been set). For more information, call 218-847-2938 or visit the museum website at

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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