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Indoor venues prepare for temporary shutdown

Museums and fitness centers are among the places affected by COVID-19 closures

The Lyon County Museum’s newest exhibit gallery, telling the story of the county from WWII to today, was originally scheduled for its grand opening next month. With the museum closing because of COVID-19, the grand opening celebration is canceled for now, said museum director Jennifer Andries.

MARSHALL — The Lyon County Museum had some big things planned as the holiday season approached — the annual Indoor Christmas Tree Walk was ready to open this weekend, and the grand opening of the museum’s newly-renovated second floor was set for Dec. 7.

“In a normal year, this is our busiest time of the year,” said executive director Jennifer Andries. But this hasn’t been a normal year.

Now, “We have to close on Saturday,” to comply with the latest executive order from Gov. Tim Walz, Andries said. Museums were among the indoor entertainment venues ordered to close for four weeks, to slow the spread of COVID-19.

While it was disappointing not to be able to open the tree walk and new exhibits on time, Andries said the museum still plans to share them with the public. The tree walk will continue virtually, through social media and the museum’s website.

“We’re going to try and see if we can have online voting,” Andries said. The museum also plans to share photos and videos of holiday decorations in the Heritage Room and other areas of the museum.

The new executive order, which takes effect tonight, puts limits on a wide range of places where people gather. Restaurants and bars were limited to take-out and delivery service only, and fitness centers, theaters, museums, and indoor entertainment were ordered closed.

The Marshall Area YMCA was among the fitness affected by the executive order. In an update to Y members on Thursday, executive director Tom Bolin said the YMCA will close its doors at the end of the business day today, and will stay closed for four weeks. However, Bolin said the YMCA will continue to hold virtual exercise classes. Distance learning and after-school programs for children of essential workers will also continue to operate at the Marshall Y.

The Lyon County Museum wasn’t the only area history museum affected by the shutdown. Some museums, like the Wheels Across the Prairie Museum and the End-O-Line Railroad Park and Museum in Currie, had already closed for the season earlier this fall. Others, like the Murray County Museum, needed to close.

In a Thursday news release, the Murray County Museum said it will close from Nov. 21 to Dec. 21 to comply with the executive order. Museum staff said they still plan to post interesting artifacts and history on the museum’s Facebook page Tuesday through Friday. Staff members will also be available by phone or email to answer research questions from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays.

Andries said for now, the plan for the Lyon County Museum is to share photos and videos of the Christmas tree walk and holiday decorations through media like Facebook, the museum’s website, and the Marshall Independent. The tree walk will also be extended through January, in hopes that visitors will be able to see and vote for their favorite trees in person.

While preview nights and the grand opening of the museum’s second floor won’t be able to happen as planned, Andries said organizers are still looking forward to having visitors in the future.

“The second floor we’ve been working on for five years,” Andries said. The exhibit, called “Making Lyon County Home,” focuses on the stories of people who have called the area home from the end of World War II through today. When the museum can safely reopen, the new exhibit gallery will be open to the public, she said.

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