BFK News

It’s time to unleash your imagination and get your floats ready for the 9th Annual Children’s Parade on Wednesday, July 26 in downtown Appleton. Presented by ThedaCare, the Parade invites families to express their creativity by parading in costume, riding decorated bikes or other non-motorized transportation. Registration is free, but required, at

The parade line up begins at 5:15 p.m. in Houdini Plaza. The parade steps off at 6 p.m. with participants marching east on College Avenue, turning left on Drew Street and ending in City Park. In City Park after the Parade, there will be a Fox Valley Food Truck Rally, music with 95.9 KISS FM and family activities. “The Lego Batman Movie” will play at dusk.

“This is one of our favorite events,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at The Building for Kids Children’s Museum. “Through the years we have seen pirates, princesses, heroes and everything in between. But the best part is seeing the excitement on the kid’s faces as they parade down College Avenue with their families and the community that comes out to cheer them on.”

Prizes will be awarded for individual and group floats for creativity, confidence, imagination and spirit.

Children’s Parade is part of Children’s Week, an annual community-wide celebration of kids.

The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will be celebrating what makes us unique at Diversity Discovery Free Day on Saturday, May 6 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In partnership with Celebrate Diversity and University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, with the support of the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, this free admission day will feature all the fun of the BFKCM plus local non-profits and community groups with hands-on activities for families to learn, discover and celebrate diversity.

Along with the family-friendly, interactive activities, The Mielke Family Theater will have different programs including multicultural story time with the Appleton Public Library, the Oneida Nation Dancers and the Lawrence University Gamelan.

“The Building for Kids is a place where families can come and celebrate who they are every day,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at the BFKCM. “Diversity Discovery Free Day is a way to celebrate all of the different cultures and traditions make up the tapestry of our community.”

Diversity Discovery Free Day is supported by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Community Foundation of the Fox Valley Region, Bemis Company Foundation, Mielke Family Foundation, Associated Bank, City Café, Schneider National Foundation and Shopko Foundation.

Big Arts in the Little Apple, a collaborative program between The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) and the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, will be unveiling a community-wide art exhibit on April 5. Over 650 original pieces were created by Appleton Area School District 3rd and 4th grade students this past fall and will be displayed in various places in the community through May 15.

The program brought art and music with a new twist into the Appleton Public Schools. Students were challenged to listen to, “Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), TrV 190, Op. 40” an orchestral tone poem composed by Richard Strauss, and then create visual art inspired by the music. The piece musically depicts the adventures, battles, loves and the life of a hero. As students listened they were encouraged think about and visualize the different elements in the music, such as melody, rhythm, dynamics, tone color, instrumentation and texture, and use that to create their pieces.

The art pieces inspired by “Ein Heldenleben” range from abstract to more figurative, bright colors to more muted tones. Over 35 locations are housing the unique pieces, most being in downtown Appleton. A map featuring all the locations can be found at or at one of the art locations.

“Big Arts in the Little Apple encouraged students to explore different ways to spark inspiration and creativity,” said Jarrad Bittner, executive director for the BFKCM. “Being able to have helped create this experience for the students, and then share their art with the community has been a very rewarding experience.”

On May 19 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., all of the pieces will be exhibited at the BFKCM for Art on the Town. The art reception will also feature live performances by members of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, an instrument petting zoo hosted by Heid Music and more.

Big Arts in the Little Apple was made possible with the generous support of the Appleton Area School District, Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Heid Music, Mielke Family Foundation, Octoberfest, Richeson School of Art & Gallery and School Specialty.

The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) knows that adulting can be hard. In a new event series, Adult Recess, the BFKCM will give adults the chance to be a kid again, if only for one night. The first in the series is a 1920s Casino Night on Friday, February 10, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Other dates in the series are May 12, August 11 and November 4, which will be the 25th Anniversary celebration for the BFKCM.

Adults 21 and older are invited to try their hand at roulette, poker, blackjack and craps. The night will also include ice cream from Crazy Sweet, Moonshine Mixology with The Shinery, 1920s dance lessons from Inspiration Dance and Fitness, photo booth, hor d’oeuvres and cash bar. Plus the excuse to become a fire fighter, race boats in the water gallery, climb in the tree house and more.

“Adult Recess is a chance for us to create unique and fun events for the community,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director of the BFKCM. “It also lets us showcase the Museum for people that might not otherwise have an opportunity to visit. Or for parents that want to play without sharing with the kids.”

Tickets for Adult Recess are $15 and can be purchased at, by calling 920-734-3226 ext. 10 or by stopping at the BFKCM.

The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) had quite a year in 2016 and is looking forward to a busy 2017. Many changes took place in 2016 including a new Pierce Fire Truck, renovated Thrivent Mutual Funds Water Gallery (including a new water table), renovated Gulfstream Aircraft and the addition of a Building Block Wall in Construction Junction. The exhibit renovations also take into consideration kids of differing abilities, making it easier for everyone to come play. And those are just some of the most noticeable changes.

The BFKCM has added new and exciting programs to their line-up including Busy Bees, an interactive program that incorporates elements of science to the hands-on activities; Suzuki, which uses the Suzuki method to encourage different skills and concept development and Big Arts in the Little Apple, which helped inspire visual arts and music appreciation in the Appleton School District. Existing programs like Puddle Jumpers, Storybook Stars, Spectrum Saturday and SPARK! have seen an increase in programs, expanded content and increased attendance.

Thanks to community support, the BFKCM hosted more free and reduced admission days than ever before. This allowed almost 8,000 visitors to enjoy the Museum that might not have otherwise done so.

All of these changes helped the BFKCM see an increase in attendance and memberships. Looking forward to 2017, the BFKCM is planning on more of the same. Which means anything but.

dsc07755“The Museum had an excellent year in 2016,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director of the BFKCM. “And we are planning an even better 2017. We take the commitment to our community very seriously. Whether through programs and events, new and exciting exhibits or different partnerships, we want to serve our community in the best way possible.”

The BFKCM will be closed for its annual maintenance in September 2017 and there are already exhibits on the schedule for renovations including the Boldt Crane in Construction Junction, Huggies Happy Baby Garden, Kwik Trip, Move It by AZCO and the Renewable Energy House. The Gulfstream Aircraft will be going through stage two of its renovation that will see the addition of flight simulators to the exhibit. Some renovations will be minor, updating the space and adding some new elements. But some will be major, with the exhibits being completely reimagined and redesigned.

“We don’t want to get to a place where the Museum feels stagnant,” said Michael Wartgow, Chief Operating Officer for the BFKCM. “Some of our exhibits, especially new ones, take months, if not a year or longer to go from concept to completion. We always want to make sure that we give enough time for the creative process.”

Programs currently in development for 2017 include art classes, summer camps and more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming. Also in the beginning stages of development is a STEM Lab, which will include space for kids to try different scientific and engineering experiments, as well as have classes and programs.

As for events, February will bring the first Adult Recess, an event crafted to give the adults a little play time. Each of the quarterly events will have a different theme and activities. The first in the series is a 1920’s Casino Night on February 10. Adult Recess is a great way to introduce the BFKCM to adults that might not otherwise have a reason for visiting, or to give parents some time to play without having to share with their kids.

Pete the Cat will be visiting on March 30 and 31 for Pete’s Pizza Party. Kids can come and enjoy story time, activities and pizza with Pete. This is one of several events that the BFKCM has held outside their regular admission hours. Surveys of Members and the community found people were looking for more programs in the evening. This led the Museum to have more late closings and after hours programming.

All this leads into the 25th Anniversary Celebration on November 4, 2017. The BFKCM will be asking the community to help them prepare for this event by sharing photos and memories of the Museum. These will be collected and curated into an exhibit to highlight the anniversary, and create excitement for the future.

“We want the community to be involved in our 25th Anniversary Celebration,” said Bittner. “It is because of them that we were created, that we have been around this long and that we have been able to do the amazing things that we do. This is not just a Museum celebration, it’s a community celebration.”

After all this activity, what is left for 2018? Plans are already in the works for a traveling exhibit, renovations to the da Vinci Studio and more.


Celebrate the New Year at The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) with Noodles Around the World on December 31 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sponsored by Noodles & Company, the event will include different noodle dishes every hour including Penne Rosa, Bangkok Curry and Wisconsin Mac & Cheese.

There will be countdowns and ball drops at noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., with dance parties and parades around the BFKCM to ring in the new year.

Noodles Around the World is included with BFKCM daily admission or membership. The BFKCM will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.

We will host a very Grinch-y guest for brunch on Saturday, December 17 from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Tickets for Brunch with the Grinch are on sale now for $12.50 per person or $5 for Museum members. The event includes breakfast, story time with the Grinch, activities, crafts and a Grinch-themed photo booth. Ticket price also covers Museum admission, so families can stay and play after the event.

Brunch times will be 9:15 a.m., 8:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 1:15 p.m., with “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” story times at 10:15 a.m., 12 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at, by calling 920-734-3226 ext. 10 or by stopping at the BFKCM.

Registration is now open for Spooktacular, The Building for Kids Children’s Museum’s (BFKCM) annual Halloween event. Presented by Goodwill, Spooktacular will be Wednesday, October 26, Thursday, October 27 and Friday, October 28 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the BFKCM. Everyone is encouraged to come in costume for this family friendly, community event that combines Halloween games and activities with the fun of the BFKCM.

Spooktacular dates:

  • Wednesday, October 26, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. – BFKCM Members Only
    • Musical fun with Randy Peterson at 6:45 pm
  • Thursday, October 27, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. – $1 per person
    • Professor Gizmo with spooky science at 6:45 pm
  • Friday, October 28, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. – $1 per person
    • Musical fun with Randy Peterson at 6:45 pm

This year will include games from Bay Tek Games, Halloween crafts, balloon animals, entertainment and more. New this year is a photo booth with a social media costume contest for families to show off the costumes worn to Spooktacular.

Registration is required and space is limited. Visit to register.

Spooktacular is presented by Goodwill, with additional support from Chase Bank, Bay Tek Games and St. Francis Xavier Catholic School System.

Starting this fall, The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will expand its SPARK! Program into a monthly program and it will include more collaboration with other organizations as well as multi-generational programs. SPARK!, a program for caregivers and loved ones living with memory loss, had its pilot program at the BFKCM in early 2015. The first of the new series, on October 15 at 10 a.m., will feature music education students from Lawrence University bringing instruments to try and musicians from the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra engaging participants through music.

Fall SPARK! Programs at the BFKCM:

  • Making Music, Saturday, October 15 at 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. This program encourages multi-generational participation. Participants can feel free to bring kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.
  • Coloring with Light, Monday, November 21 at 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
  • Holiday Travel, Monday, December 19 at 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Each program engages participants in interactive exhibit and hands-on experiences. They learn about different art forms and music, and get a chance to create. Past programs have included string painting, storytelling through collage and meditative rock gardens.

“Our mission focuses not only on children, but also on families and community,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director of the BFKCM. “The SPARK! Program gives us the opportunity to provide engaging programs for members of the community we might otherwise not see at the Museum. And it gives them the chance to create and connect on many different levels.”

The art programs are led by a professional artist with a Master of Fine Arts. All programs are conducted by specially trained staff, with trainings in engagement strategies, disability accommodation, medical background on Alzheimer’s and related dementia, implications of the diseases on family and social life and more.

SPARK! programs are at The Building for Kids Children’s Museum and are free and open to the public thanks to the generous support of the Mielke Family Foundation, Oak Park Place – Menasha and the Outagamie County Chapter of Thrivent Financial. To register for a program, call the BFKCM at 920-734-3226 ext. 10.

Looking to jam? The Building for Kids Children’s Museum (BFKCM) will have free admission for Music Makers Free Day Saturday, August 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Presented by Thrivent Mutual Funds with support from WBAY, this event will feature music from Randy Peterson, programs from the Mile of Music educators, plus other music and science activities!

Along with the musical activities that will be happening all day long, families can enjoy the BFKCM exhibits, learn about the science of sound and create art to music in the da Vinci Studio.

“We recognize the importance of music to a child’s development,” said Jarrad Bittner, Executive Director at the BFKCM. “Music and music classes help with intellectual, social, emotional, motor and language development. Plus it can ignite a lifelong passion for creativity.”

Schedule of events:

9:30 a.m. – Mini Mile of Music

Age: 0-3 years

Songs, dancing, and music games for little ones.

10:00 a.m. – Suzuki Baby Music Class

Age: 0-3 years

Rhythm, rhyme and familiar tunes in an environment designed specifically for babies and toddlers. The Suzuki Method provides the littlest children with confidence, determination and a lasting enjoyment of music. Bring your babies and toddlers for a shortened Suzuki Baby Music Class and be impressed by your child’s concentration and create treasured memories to share.

10:30 a.m. – Singing Picture Books!

Age: 4-7

Watch, listen and interact with lively storytellers as they bring picture books to life with song, dance and a ton of fun.

11:30 a.m. – Randy Peterson

All ages

Entertainer, educator and storyteller, Randy finds song material by looking at the world through children’s eyes. From marveling at the worlds of science and nature, to the simple joy of making a new friend, he brings these gems to life in a most entertaining style.

1:00 p.m. – Randy Peterson

2:30 p.m. – Parachutes and Boomwhackers!

Age: 4-7

Come sing, move, Boomwhack and run in and out of parachutes in the most colorful music making session for young ones at Mile of Music.


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