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Toy Town Museum winds up for future

Like a popular toy gets updated, the retooling of the Toy Town Museum has organizers hoping for a stronger organization with staying power.

"In the last few years we've really faced some tough times," Gary Grote, chairman of the Toy Town Foundation, said Friday.

Those problems were highlighted last year when the museum asked East Aurora to waive its costs for ToyFest.

Museum founders created ToyFest 20 years ago to raise money for the museum. It opened in a storefront on Main Street in East Aurora in the late 1980s, and moved to an 8,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the Fisher-Price plant at 636 Girard Ave. in 1995.

In recent years it has struggled to raise enough money to operate the museum. But in the past year, the board has added new members with expertise in different areas, cut costs and defined its focus, Grote said.

Now, ToyFest will continue, and the museum will remain open.

The check for ToyFest was delivered to Village Hall last fall. The foundation also gave additional duties to its marketing representative Lynn Kinsella.

The museum founders wanted to recognize the importance of local toy makers, and that's where the museum will be focusing, Kinsella said. "Toy Making in Western New York" will open March 4 and feature the toys and games produced by dozens of local companies.

"It's really giving us a fresh start to an old initiative," she said.

The museum also is asking the public to provide information on some of the firms.

"We need to open the exhibit and ask people to help," Kinsella said.

The museum's Toy Works area has been renovated by Fisher-Price and will be used to teach about scientific discoveries and historical events through the story of toys. The museum approached teachers at the East Aurora School District to help design programs to reinforce classroom concepts.

"They developed programs for kindergarten through fifth grade that complement the New York State standards," Kinsella said.

Toy Works will be opening for school field trips next month.

The museum also is increasing efforts to recruit volunteers to serve on committees as well as work in the museum and give tours. Efforts also have been launched to make the museum a destination for regional and out-of-state visitors.

"We want it to be fun. It's a toy museum," said Bruce Oravec, a foundation board member.

With expenses of about $175,000 for the museum and $90,000 for ToyFest, the museum also is focusing on increasing its revenues. It will be pursuing more grants and would like to increase its membership from about 500 to 1,000.

Although sales of the commemorative toy have declined in recent years, the museum will continue the tradition. This year's toy will be new, not a replica of a traditional toy. It will feature the soldier from the Toy Town logo. There also will be a special puzzle issued for sale.


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