Children's attendance at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon has risen steadily since it opened three years ago, which explains why a major expansion is aimed at educating children.
The Billy Watson Music Factory, an interactive wing of the museum, opens with a gala at 8 p.m. Saturday. Its goal is to teach kids about instruments and sound in a fun and colorful way.
Tickets for the $75-per-person gala can be ordered by calling toll-free at (888) 427-6257. Admission includes a year's membership in the museum and a buffet of international foods.
The Music Factory will feature various instruments for kids to play along with other things (pipes, etc.) that produce sounds. Kids can push buttons that correspond to areas of Georgia and play the music from that region, or punch staff notes to compose their own tunes.
Executive Director Rob Blount reports that, since the museum opened on Sept. 21, 1996, attendance of schoolchildren has increased from 12,523 the first year to 19,054 (373 children's groups from 68 Georgia counties) in fiscal year 1998-99.
At the same time, the museum recorded a 5 percent drop in total attendance (85,562 this past fiscal year, compared with 90,168 the previous year). Museum officials anticipated a decrease when the newness wore off and regular attendance became settled.
They note that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland dropped from 1.3 million visitors the first year to 600,000 the second and fewer than 500,000 the third year.
To bring attention to the Music Factory's grand opening, Hall of Fame staff members have been spreading the word across the state.
One barnstorming weekend, July 14-15, saw media specialist Lisa Love making presentations to 405 children in libraries in Metter, Swainsboro, Claxton and Statesboro. Children's songs were performed at the four locations by Flo Carter of Beech Island, with her husband, Don, playing drums and her 89-year-old mother, Ada Collins, playing guitar.
Also surrounding the Music Factory's grand opening will be these events taking place on the museum's plaza, 200 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard:
Free concert featuring three giants: 8 tonight, featuring Mickey Thomas and his band Starship (formerly Jefferson Airplane), John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band and Larry Hoppen.
Mr. Thomas, born Dec. 3, 1949, in Cairo, Ga., was the lead vocalist on Elvin Bishop's 1976 hit Fooled Around and Fell in Love on Macon-based Capricorn Records. He and Grace Slick also were the lead vocals on Starship's first 1985 hit, We Built This City (With Rock and Roll).
Mr. Cafferty and his band were the soundtrack band for the movie Eddie and the Cruisers. He sang lead vocals on the hits Tender Years and On the Dark Side heard in the movie.
Mr. Hoppen was co-founder of the band Orleans and was the lead vocalist on the hits Still the One, Dance With Me and Love Takes Time.
Plaza-Palooza Family Street Fair: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday featuring entertainers of all kinds from across Georgia.
Don Rhodes has written about country music for 28 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.