An Evening of Play Turns the Children’s Museum Over to Adults for One Night

October 22, 2012

By Teya Vitu

Perhaps you missed last year’s An Evening of Play at the Children’s Museum.

Sorry about that. You missed out on some silly and fun adult escapades cloaked as the museum’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

Think of Evening of Play as the anti-black tie event that comes with a $125 admission (remember, it’s a fundraiser – and there is valet parking). There’s no program, no speakers, no breaking up the chit-chat part of the event to seat everybody.

Michelle Marks and Valerie Greenhill are in touch with their inner child at last year’s Evening of Play.

It’s just…say it with me…an Evening of Play.

Children’s Museum Executive Director Michael Luria decided to try out this playing at the museum party concept last year after eight years of the standard sit-at-table Family Fun Brunch at Tucson Country Club.

“We had more people say we will absolutely be back next year,” Luria said. “They are letting their guard down. They are allowing their inner child to come out. They are allowing themselves to play.”

Evening of Play turns the Children’s Museum over to adult children on Nov. 2 at 6:30 p.m.

“We’re doing brewskis and tattooskis, that’s my favorite,” said Hilary Van Alsburg, the museum’s development director. “You can have beer tasting and get a glitter tattoo.”

At least 100 women did the glitter tattoo last year.

There will be liquid nitrogen margaritas and the signature “playtini” concocted by Scott & Co. and involving champagne, spirits and cotton candy.

“We set up an old-fashioned candy table with Atomic Fireballs, Pixy Stix, Bazooka bubble gum, Sweet Tarts, things like that. It was a total surprise. It was the last thing. Talk about a sweet ending,” Luria said.

Luria and Van Alsburg had no idea how the candy table would go over with the adults. It was a sensation.

“My all time favorite is the candy store at the end,” said Gina Murphy-Darling, perhaps better known as Mrs. Green of Mrs. Green’s World. “You feel like a kid at the candy store.”

Evening of Play may be an anti-banquet, but, worry not, Downtown’s best restaurants (plus a few from farther afield) will be serving you: Downtown Kitchen, 47 Scott, Maynards Kitchen. Café a la C’Art, El Charro, Jax Kitchen, Lodge on the Desert, and HUB Restaurant.

“I think they like the whimsy,” Luria said.

Each restaurant can prepare one dish of their choice, but the second dish must be an interpretation of a childhood classic. Here’s the culinary lineup:

El Charro: Posole and pumpkin flan; mini Sonoran hot dogs.

Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails: Golden watermelon + roasted beet salad with basil, mint and chevre; gnocchi with pork cheek ragout, fresh thyme, caramelized onions.

The Abbey/Jax Kitchen: Duck leg confit cassoulet with cranberry beans, bacon lardon, sausage; lady bugs on a log; celery sticks with Nutella and dried cranberries.

47 Scott: Chicken “nuggets” with fresh goat cheese wrapped in phyllo; mac and cheese

Cup Café: Adobo pulled pork tacos with cabbage, pickled onions, pico de gallo and chipotle aioli; meatball slider with fresh mozzarella, basil and roasted tomato sauce on a potato bun.

Maynards: Bruschetta of roasted gold and red beets, oranges and fennel, blue d’affinois and beet gastrique; bruschetta of grilled apples, Brie cheese, arugula with tarragon gastrique.

Lodge on the Desert: Thai peanut Soup with red pepper jelly and coconut shrimp; warm PB&J with bacon apricot jelly.

Café à la C’Art: fondue bar with cheesecake, brownie bites, cake squares, various fruits, meringues, pretzels, and butter cookies with warm  chocolate ganache and warm caramel for dipping.

The HUB: Assorted ice cream; sundae bar.

The Children’s Museum hopes to raise $70,000 with An Evening of Play. You may buy tickets online here or by calling 792-9985.

“I go to so many events that it’s ridiculous. This is one of my top of events I go to because it’s fun,” said Murphy-Darling, CEO of Mrs. Green’s World, a Tucson-based global Internet radio network that focuses on sustainability. “They do things that are different and fun.”

Beyond all the fun, Luria moved the major fundraiser to the museum so that Tucson’s philanthropic sector can actually see and experience the Children’s Museum. Luria has aggressively upgraded the museum since he became executive director in April 2009.

“Today, you see a museum that is engaging, passionate and committed to providing fun and an education experience for families. It’s all hands-on,” Luria said. “Even in the last year, there’s been tremendous change. First and foremost, you have Investigation Station. It’s our largest exhibition space. It replaced the static dinosaur. Electri-City is going through a major transformation. We have a new ambulance in Public Safety, a Nano Mini Exhibit and three new exhibits in Make Some Noise.”

Luria expects 350 people will attend. The fundraiser is vital to continue these ongoing improvements.

“Without those funds, it’s one less exhibit that is going to get replaced or enhanced,” Luria said.

Just in the weeks before Evening of Play, the museum completely remodeled the lobby in the 1901 Carnegie Library Building that the Children’s Museum has occupied for 22 years.

Even parents who do bring children to the museum on a regular basis may not see the Children’s Museum the same way they would An Evening of Play.

“It’s nice for adults to be enjoying the museum without herding cats,” Van Alsburg said.

The Children’s Museum had record attendance of 134,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30.

“Our summer was the most successful ever,” Luria said. “We were 30 percent over the prior year. In July, we had an all-time record 18,000 people. The awareness of the museum and who we serve is increasing. We are getting more attention.”