Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Rutland's Expanded Wonderfeet Children's Museum Officially Opens

Nina Keck
Twenty one-month-old Elliyah Daniel makes a make-believe meal for her father Trevor Daniel at Rutland's Wonderfeet Children's Museum Friday. The museum celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting Friday evening and special activities on Saturday.

Rutland's Wonderfeet Children’s Museum celebrated its grand opening this weekend – the culmination of five years of effort by volunteers and local businesses.

But to 21-month-old Elliyah Daniel, it was simply a fun place to spend a rainy morning. 

While Daniel was pouring her father make-believe tea at the child-sized diner, 18-month-old Isla Labate and 3-year-old Jackson Fellows were busy measuring, mixing and throwing dried beans.

Sharon Henrichon of Rutland says Wonderfeet is one of her grandson Jackson’s favorite places. "He's absolutely in love with this place. There's a wall over here with balls and he loves the farmers market and the play table and the kids. There's just nothing not to like here, she adds smiling."

Myra Peffer is Wonderfeet's executive director. "It's a good picture of the community saying, 'You know, we would really like to have this,' and the community answering, 'OK, lets make it happen,'" she says.

Back in 2010, area residents identified a children's museum as something they wanted in their community at a local Creative Economy forum.

Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Rutland's newly expanded Wonderfeet Children's Museum covers 2,400 square feet and includes: a child sized farmers market and diner, a cave, robotics and Lego areas and enclosed play areas for toddlers.

Having run education programs at several large public zoos and a Columbus, Ohio science center, Peffer got involved as a volunteer.

She says they started in an empty storefront, offering activities for young kids on Friday evenings during Rutland's summer block party series.

"It's a good picture of the community saying, 'You know, we would really like to have this,' and the community answering, 'OK, lets make it happen.'" - Myra Peffer, Wonderfeet executive director

The community loved it, says Peffer, but wanted more. Since then, they've expanded twice and last October Peffer was hired as the museum’s full-time, paid director. "We made a budget for the year and we said we'll bring in 4,700 people, but we're already over 3,000 in just two months," she says smiling.

While they held a celebratory ribbon cutting this weekend, Peffer says their new 2,400-square-foot space has actually been open since February. "We said, we'll bring in 100 memberships this year, and we're already at 133. So it's way beyond I think what any of us thought it would be."

Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Sharon Henrichon watches as her 3-year-old grandson Jackson Fellows plays with 18-month-old Isla Labate while Labate's grandmother Mary Kay Dunphy, far right, looks on. Henrichon says Wonderfeet is one of her grandson's favorite places.

She says they have a wide variety of ticket prices and annual membership rates so just about anyone can come and enjoy the museum.

Hosting special events like birthday parties and a growing number of grant-funded collaborative projects, with the local Boys and Girls Club, area schools and Rutland Regional Medical Center, will help them remain sustainable, adds Peffer.

While many local businesses have helped get the museum off the ground, she says now the museum can do its part to return the favor.

Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Wonderfeet's Executive Director Myra Peffer holds drawings for future exhibits at the children's museum.

"We've been working with GE for several years," says Peffer. "And they've told us that this kind of thing helps when we're trying to recruit people to come and work here."

At Fogs and Lilly Pads, a children’s store just a few doors down from Wonderfeet, sales clerk Patty Starer says the museum has been fabulous. "There have been a lot of people who would just walk by and they go, 'Oh gosh, I did not know there was a toy store in downtown Rutland.' So I think bringing the kids and parents down here, they're going to realize there's a lot more shopping that's available for the public."

Myra Peffer says in addition to financial support, the community has also provided an unbelievable level of expertise from painters and builders, to artists.

Credit Nina Keck / VPR
Wonderfeet's child-sized diner was designed by former Disney artist Yoshi Akiyama of Manchester.

She points to the whimsical round diner – a centerpiece of the museum, designed by former Disney artist Yoshi Akiyama of Manchester. "Well, it takes it to a whole different level," she says. "You have an artistic designer who designed Disney Tokyo, you know. The diner is awesome. It's a place where kids can role-play. I think it looks like something from the Jetsons. It's all pink and it has silvery things on the top. So it looks like things from another time period," laughs Peffer. 

Peffer says Akiyama has also sketched out designs for a train and a town hall exhibit they plan to build.

Heritage Family is funding a miniature credit union for the museum, and Peffer says they've also got several murals they plan to install.

"It’s exciting," she says walking through the new space, "the possibilities are endless."  

One in five Vermonters is considered elderly. But what does being elderly even mean — and what do Vermonters need to know as they age? I’m looking into how aging in Vermont impacts living essentials such as jobs, health care and housing. And also how aging impacts the stuff of life: marriage, loss, dating and sex.
Latest Stories