Nicholas Bono didn’t need much motivation. The nine-year-old watched his older sister win an award for an essay she wrote -- and channeled all that sibling rivalry into his Blue Star Museums Way Cool Creativity Contest entry.
“I thought I would give it a try and win,” said Bono, whose father is a soldier.
The Bono family took advantage of Blue Star Museums, a program that gives servicemembers and their families free entrance into science centers, museums and exhibits all summer long, and spent the day at the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum. There, Nicholas, Haley,and their younger brother Vincenzo got up close and personal with the famed Blue Angels jet aircraft, and learned about the bent wings on the Corsair.
“My sister’s poster reminded me of the American flag in the Naval Museum,” said Bono. “It was red, white and blue.”
Since Blue Star Museums began in 2010, the number of participating museums has shot up to nearly 2,000, with hundreds of thousands of military families taking advantage of the free deal. For Jenny Branch, the gratis entrance came as a welcome surprise when she and her family visited the Art and Science Museum in Baton Rouge, La.
“We mentioned we were military, thinking we’d get a little discount,” said Branch. “We all got in free.”
“It was like paying at the drive-through,” she added, “only to find the person ahead of you paid your bill.”
Born from a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and MetLife Foundation, Blue Star Museums fits the nomadic lifestyle of military families, as they most often PCS during the summer months. Science centers, art galleries and children’s museums are located in every state so regardless of where servicemembers are moving, it’s likely there’s a Blue Star Museum along the way. And for those lucky enough to stay in one place over the summer, it’s an economical way to bite kids with the arts bug.
Just ask Haley Bono, an 11-year-old who counts The Huntsville Space Museum and the Pensacola Naval Aviation Museum among her favorites. Bono, like any good New Orleans resident, has a stash of Mardi Gras beads that she thought “would look good in my project.” A bit of red, white and blue sparkle glue and her entry in the Way Cool Creativity Contest was complete.
The 2011 winner, Kate Burger, created a glass tile following a visit to the Tacoma Museum of Glass. “Blue Lightening,” earned the nine-year-old an Apple iPad2. This year’s prizes include savings bonds, Nikon Cool Pix P100, an Ultra HD Flip Video, and the biggest ticket -- an iPad.
The 2012 contest is open to children ages 6-17 of active-duty Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and activated National Guard and Reserves. Entries will be posted online and visitors to the Blue Star Families site will vote for their favorite. Entries are due by Sept. 5. Voting begins on Sept. 6.
For more information, visit http://www.bluestarfam.org/creativity-contest.