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Headwaters Science Center: Anniversary celebration set for Friday

The Headwaters Science Center will hold a free-admission open house with refreshments from 1:30-5:30 p.m. Friday to celebrate the center's 15th anniversary.

The center opened March 6, 1994, in what had been the downtown Bemidji former JC Penney building, 413 Beltrami Ave. N.W. The center has four-plus acres of land committed on the Mississippi River and plans to build a new museum. According to a press release, it is a member of the Association of Science Technology Centers and draws school groups from all of northwestern and north central Minnesota, as well as individual visitors from all over the country, Canada and the world. ASTC membership affords Headwaters Science Center members free access to 317 other science centers and museums, including five others in Minnesota, through a reciprocal admission program.

Laddie Elwell, director of the center, said she had a dream of science center in greater Minnesota when she worked at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul and watched field-tripping youngsters arrive, tired from hours on buses, for a brief museum experience.

She was convinced that a science center was needed in this area. So, in 1992, supporters of the idea held a public meeting and the center opened two years later.

Now, it is a major destination with 21,186 people visiting the exhibit floor in 2008 and more than 4,000 served off site. Also many children attend science center programs after school, on weekends and during the summer.

The center will offer other special events throughout March to celebrate the 15-year milestone.

Future new exhibits include a communications project and a collaboration with a Bemidji State University exhibit design class on an 18-unit respiration and circulation display.