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When "Wegmans Wonderplace" opens Dec. 9 in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C., it will be the first exhibition on the National Mall designed for the learning needs of children age 6 and under.
Made possible by a $1.5 million gift and in-kind donations from Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc., the 1,700-square-foot children's center, located within the new Innovation Wing, will enable kids to "cook" in a kitchen like that of legendary TV chef Julia Child; plant and harvest pretend vegetables and then run a farmstand; find owls hiding in a miniature replica of the Smithsonian's Castle building; and helm a tugboat based on a model in the museum's collection, among other educational and developmental activities.
"We know that play is an integral part of sparking invention and innovation, and Wegmans Wonderplace will ignite that innate curiosity in children and help guide them on a path to lifetime learning at the Smithsonian," said John Gray, director of the museum.
Additionally, Wegmans is supporting the museum's new demonstration kitchen in the Wallace H. Coulter Performance Plaza. Part of the museum's Food History Project, the kitchen will present programs and demonstrations bringing visitors together for relevant discussions that begin with history and expand to the present and future of American food. Next month, the venue will see the launch of a weekly series of cooking demonstrations, Food Fridays, which will feature a guest chef and a Smithsonian staff host as they make a dish, speak about the traditions of preparing and eating it, and delve into a related theme in U.S. food history.
Wegmans will supply fresh produce for the kitchen pantry on a weekly basis and provide culinary experts for demonstrations once a month, including its executive chef, Llewellyn Correia, who on July 10 will showcase summer grilling with an emphasis on vegetables. Special holiday-themed demos will take place in tandem with Wonderplace's December grand opening.
"Wegmans' mission is to help our customers live healthier, better lives, and that begins with children," noted Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman. "Having fun through play is the best way to inspire children to learn." According to the company, the opening of the exhibition will also set the stage for Wegmans’ 100th anniversary in 2016.
Family-owned Wegmans has 86 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.