Richland — Curiosity about Richlands long-awaited Reach center resulted in a steady stream of visitors during Fridays opening day.
The new center features displays about local history -- from how the Mid-Columbia was formed to the Manhattan project to today.
Friday was the first official day the Reach center was open to visitors, though a series of events all week have celebrated the opening. The center had 685 visitors Friday.
A group of dedicated volunteers, some of whom had spent hours poring over the exhibits in prepartion for visitors, were ready and waiting to help the first guests find some of the gems hidden among the overwhelming amount of information.
Maria Gutierrez of Pasco woke up her son Albert, 16, a sophomore at Delta High School, early so they could get to the center shortly after it opened. Since she had the day off as a holiday, she said it was a good opportunity.
Albert enjoyed the interactive portions of the displays, including drawers that pull out to reveal fossils found in the Mid-Columbia.
He played around with a computer screen, where with the touch of a finger, you could brush off fossils -- one was a mammoth tusk -- magnify them and then move them around to put them together like a puzzle.
Maria Gutierrez said she enjoyed the information and models of animals and plants, especially how part of the exhibit was made to look like the river. She found information about the goldfinch, Washington states bird, among the displays.
Clyde and Shirley Massie of Kennewick were impressed with the new museum. After hearing so much about the center, they decided to check it out on opening day.
We could spend days, Clyde Massie said.
Before the grand opening, volunteer Julia Hamrick of Kennewick said she spent about three hours checking out the gallery with her favorite exhibits about the regions formation, including the Ice Age floods and local flora and fauna. Even that wasnt enough time to read all of the field notes in the mock composition notebooks, she said.
Other sensory displays allow visitors to smell sagebrush and rub the pelt of a beaver.
Hamrick demonstrated how turning a wheel on one exhibit mimicked how tectonic plate movement pushed up the land that is now part of the coast of Washington state.
There is so much to absorb, it will take multiple visits, she said.
For example, in the first gallery, there is small display about the flightless dung beetle discovered in the Mid-Columbias shrub steppe habitat in the late 1990s. The dung beetle is only found between October and December.
Byron Logman of Richland wanted a chance to see what the Reach center shows about the Manhattan Project. Thats what brought his family to the area in 1949.
The exhibits show the alphabet houses that still exist in Richland today, although Logman said his family lived in a ranch-style home not shown on the display. His father worked as a pipefitter in the 300 area. Logman, who was 11 when they moved, later became an instrument technician at Hanford, where he worked for 30 years before retiring.
Terry Marie Fleischman, co-chairwoman of the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame, was thrilled to see the last year of work at the Reach come together in a wall dedicated to the Mid-Columbias agriculture.
The whole wall is covered in a map that shows the aerial view of farm circles in the greater Tri-City area. And there are two interactive screens where visitors can select videos that tell the stories of the 72 past winners of the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame and information about potatoes, one of the areas major crops.
Fleischman, who helped research and collect the stories for the display, said they will update it with new winners.
Every single one of them has an amazing story, she said.
For example, Ben and Alma Grant started a custom combine business when they noticed a technology gap for Columbia Basin farmers.
Fleischman hopes to add an interactive map so visitors will be able to find the farms. They likely will change the featured crop quarterly.
In a room behind the agriculture wall, volunteer Doug Hamrick of Kennewick pointed out a globe connected to a computer that allows visitors to change the display, for example, if they want to see information about the atmosphere.
Doug Hamrick, who is on the Reach foundation board, said he liked all the interactive elements sprinkled among the displays. He said was looking forward to seeing what children will make of them.
The Reach center in Richland will be open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday with a dedication and grand opening ceremony at 5 p.m. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation will bless the building and Native American artifacts. Guided tours will be available.
The Reachs regular hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Monday.
To get there from Highway 240, take the Columbia Center Boulevard exit and turn toward the Columbia River. Take a right onto Columbia Park Trail. The Reach will be on the right after about a quarter mile.
For more information, go to visitthereach.org. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for students and seniors, and free for children under age 5.