ST. CLOUD (WJON News) -- Construction is finally getting underway on what will be the second-largest museum for kids in the state.

The Great River Children’s Museum kicked off the next phase of their project on Saturday with a Building Block(s) Party.

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Marketing Chair Heidi Everett says up until now, all the focus has been on demolition, outreach, and fundraising.

Well, we've been demolishing the inside of our building for the last year and a half. Now we get to actually kick off and start building the exhibits and putting in our three-story climber. So today we're giving kids and their caregivers an opportunity to just play.

Extensive demolition was required to convert the historic building that previously housed a chicken hatchery, a bank, and a gym into a hub for young learners in 12 central Minnesota counties.

We've got some exciting demolition that still needs to happen. We've got a bank vault in there. It's the last remnant of the bank that was donated to us from Liberty Bank.

At the event, kids and their families got to enjoy a variety of construction-related games and activities and take tours through the shell that will become the museum. Digital mock-ups showed off the future indoor and outdoor exhibits and play areas along the way. Everett says the big visual show stopper will be the three-story Climber to the Clouds.

Kiddos and their caregivers can scamper up three stories. They can do weather observation. They can make thunder. They can use wind to fly kites and just learn about weather systems in general as well as have this amazing view of the museum as a whole.

Some other areas in the more than 30,000-square-foot building include the Great Big River exhibit, Headwaters exhibit, and Tinker Workshop, all intended to be educational and accessible for kids of all ages and abilities while highlighting what makes central Minnesota unique.

If everything goes according to plan, the museum is expected to open late next year. In the meantime, the Great River Children’s Museum has been partnering with the Great River Regional Library system to bring pop-up exhibits to their 32 branches to get people involved and drum up excitement.

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