Relief funds cover admission to state attractions

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By Paul Hughes, Republican-American

Gov. Ned Lamont announces the launch of the Connecticut Summer at the Museum program, which offers free admission to children under age 18 to 90 attractions, at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford on June 30. -PAUL HUGHES/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

HARTFORD — Children under 18, plus an accompanying adult, are eligible for free admission to 90 Connecticut attractions this summer, including museums, aquariums, nature and science centers, and historical sites.

The state government is using $15 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for the Connecticut Summer at the Museum program that will provide free admission to the participating venues through Sept. 6.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced the launch June 30 at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford below a massive and moving animatronic Spinosaurus, a massive sail-backed dinosaur with a crocodile’s snout from the Cenomanian times roughly 100 million years ago.

The full list of participating museums is available at ctsummermuseums.com. State officials advise checking each museum for online advance ticketing and reservations, as they may be required.

In addition to the Connecticut Science Center, the participating attractions include the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, the Railroad Museum of New England in Thomaston and the American Clock & Watch Museum in Bristol.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lamont explained the purpose of the free admission program is to provide children and families with engaging summer enrichment and learning experiences.

“We want learning to be happening every day everywhere,” said Charlene Russell Tucker, the acting state education commissioner.

She said the COVID-19 outbreak caused disruptions in education that exacerbated an achievement gap that was already one of the biggest in the country. She said the social and emotional development of students was also affected.

“We all know our children thrive when they are given the opportunity to have fun, hands-on learning experiences that not only benefit them academically, but socially and emotionally as well,” Russell Tucker said. “One thing is certain, we must leverage the summer months to accelerate our children’s learning and bridge the social gaps that were exacerbated over the last year.”

The participating museums and other venues also stand to benefit from the free admission program, said Matt Fleury, the president of the Connecticut Science Center.

He said the Connecticut Science Center and other museums are seeing a stronger return of audience now than any other time since COVID-19 first broke out in the state more than a year ago in March 2020.

“That is very encouraging, and the energy of this, the opportunity to see Connecticut’s great destinations at no cost to you is really going to resonate, I think, very strongly,” Fleury said.