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WATERLOO — Excited voices filled the Phelps Youth Pavilion on Monday as children played with its art-inspired interactive exhibits.

Kids dug into a container of rubberized dirt to plant plastic vegetables. They drove a tractor towards scenery projected on a wall and climbed into a bus that swayed from side to side.

Other children spent time in the one-room Grant Wood school house, sitting in the desks or writing on the chalkboard — proving the World’s Greatest Spring Break for Kids even has something for those who would rather be in school this week.

The youth pavilion is just one of 10 downtown locations taking part in the event continuing through Friday. Schools in Waterloo, Cedar Falls and a number of other communities across the Cedar Valley are on spring break this week. Children accompanied by adults can visit museums, attend a play, go swimming or skating, make crafts and more.

Admission is $1 at most sites and free at the others, thanks to the sponsorship of the R.J. McElroy Trust. More information can be found online at

Six-year-old Brinley Penn of Parkersburg might prefer to get back to her first-grade classroom later this week, but on Monday she was excited to be at the youth pavilion.

“I really like climbing up the holes,” she said, referring to the passageway under the stairs providing an alternate route to the second floor. The pavilion was the second stop for her family following a dip in the pool at the Sportsplex.

“We went swimming,” said Brinley. “I really like going down the slide.”

“My wife and I brought five kids,” said David Penn, Brinley’s dad, ranging from 8 years to six months old. The family was joined by a friend who came with another four children.

“They really look forward to coming to town, swimming and playing,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll be worn out and go home to eat lunch.”

His wife plans to return with the children later in the week for another visit to some of the attractions.

Daetyn Weber and Vella Allen, both of Waterloo, plan to participate in the spring break activities throughout the week. The Kingsley Elementary School fifth-graders were upstairs at the youth pavilion posing in front of a device that snaps their pictures, providing a guide to draw their portraits.

“It’s awesome,” said Allen of the youth pavilion. “We can’t get enough of this place.”

The pair was planning some other stops, as well. “Young Arena is going to be my favorite,” said Weber, where they will go ice skating.

Amos Krause of Waverly was at the Bluedorn Science Imaginarium with his three sons, ages 4, 15 and 19.

“It’s kind of cool that they can all find something that they like,” he noted. “It’s a great event that keeps us in this area rather than going somewhere else.”

After lunch, they planned a visit to the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum and Grout Museum. On Tuesday, they planned to return for stops at the youth pavilion and Young Arena.

“We haven’t tried ice skating before and he’s been asking,” said Krause, indicating his 4-year-old. “It’s a perfect opportunity.”

Sisters Olivia and Emma Reiter, who were at the Imaginarium with their mom, love the spring break activities.

“We’ve been coming since we were kids,” said Olivia, noting she is now 16 and a sophomore at Columbus Catholic High School. Her sister is a seventh-grader at Blessed Maria Assunta Pallotta Middle School.

Mom Kim Reiter likes that it “gets them out of the house and away from their cell phones.” The family has been regular attenders at the event because work commitments keep them in town during spring break.

“It’s affordable, that’s the nice thing,” she added. “I’m so glad they keep doing it.”


Waterloo Schools / HCC Reporter

Education reporter for the Courier

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