Pull out your boots and bonnets and head to Hillsboro

by: COURTESY PHOTO - The STAGES Performing Arts Youth Academy will present Oregon or Bust at the Washington County Museum Saturday. Ainsley Campista, Hallie Bartell, Rylie Bartell, David VanDyke, Chloe Beaston, Riley Edwards, Kaelynn Touchstone, Isaiah Espinosa, Caleb Inman, Frankie Woodman, Caleb Kinder, Bronwyn Grover, Hannah Wilson and Maya Erickson are part of the troop.It’s time to pull on your boots and bonnets this weekend at the Washington County Museum.

Children and adults are welcome to explore the museum for free Saturday, when the building will be buzzing with hands-on activities and a kid-friendly performance — all focused on an Oregon Trail theme.

The museum has had Free Family Days on the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. since 2008.It’s a way to open the museum to everyone, sweeping aside any concerns of affordability for the day, said Krissy Rowan, the museum’s director of communications.”We do this so that families that can’t get in can come and explore the museum,” Rowan said. The day is popular, with attendance creeping up over the years. Rowan expects around 100 visitors Saturday during the three-hour period.

This time, children will get to create two toys that were popular among youngsters traveling across the plains and over the Rockies hundreds of years ago. On the agenda are clothespin dolls and thaumatropes (wood and string contraptions that create an optical illusion when spun). Pioneer games and dress-up are also planned.

At 11 a.m., the STAGES Performing Arts Youth Academy will perform “Oregon or Bust!” The show is an entertaining 30-minute look at the historic journey to Oregon, filled with songs, dance and laughs, said STAGES co-founder Cindy Wilkins. The young performers, between 10 and 16 years old, will present six song and dance numbers in traditional pioneer clothes and old-fashioned boots — not the easiest getups to have on while jumping, twirling and strutting on stage, Wilkins said.”

They’re not dance shoes, so they really have to learn to get around it,” she said.

Wilkins’ 14 students work with coaches one-on-one throughout the year to hone their dancing, singing and acting skills, rehearsing about six hours a week. This is the debut of “Oregon or Bust!” After the show, the actors will mingle with the audience, a learning opportunity for all, Wilkins said.

Theater gives them a sense of grace in front of a lot of people,” she said. Funds for this year’s Free Family Day programs come from the San Francisco-based William G. Gilmore Foundation, which gave $10,000, as well as another $10,000 for the museum’s Mobile Museum program for 2013. “It’s amazing. I love that foundations support programs like this,” Rowan said.

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