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Fresno boy meets 'Bob the Builder'

Mr. Workman, meet Mr. Builder. OK, let’s drop the formalities. One of them is 4 years old, after all, and the other has a head the shape of a basketball and a puttylike mound of a nose with no visible nostrils. We’ll call them Aidan and Bob.

Aidan Workman was the very first kid in the Fresno area to get to see “Bob the Builder — Project: Build It,” which is in its opening weekend at the Fresno Metropolitan Museum. (Official opening-day festivities were held Saturday.)

Aidan’s parents, Julie and Darwin Workman of Clovis, are friends with Candice Pendergrass, the Met’s marketing director, who arranged to show the exhibition a few days beforehand to a reporter, photographer and Aidan.

Here’s a rundown:The scene: When the elevator door opened at the second floor, young Aidan — sporting a very yellow plastic construction hard hat — bounded into the exhibition as I followed behind. An expression of television-inculcated recognition flashed across his face when he saw the familiar characters, a look known to every parent who has taken a child down the action-figures aisle at Target. “Who’s that?” Pendergrass asked. “Bob!” he cried out.

The exhibit: Big and colorful, the sturdy molded plastic figures and displays are faithful to the TV series, which is shown on PBS. Suggested age range is preschool through 8 years. (The museum’s goal is to broaden its exposure in the community — and to help battle its well-documented financial woes — by appealing to a family demographic.) The 10 activity stations in the show, which originally appeared at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, range from such kiddie-size vehicles as Roley the Steamroller to activity stations such as Bob the Builder’s Workshop, where kids can fit pipes together and repair a leak in Bob’s sink. Aidan immediately climbed on Muck the Dump Truck.

The hands-on factor: High. Aidan eagerly pushed every button he could (not all the displays had been assembled for the show) and clambered into the driver’s seat of each vehicle. The museum waives its rules for this exhibition involving touching (it’s allowed), eating (peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and juice boxes, available at the “Bob the Builder” store, can be eaten in a designated area) and photographs (take all you want). Kids can poke, prod, scoop and assemble as they choose the correct shapes, as they pump “water” and pick the best tools to get the job done.

The recognition factor: Aidan knew these characters, instantly recognizing Wendy, who is Bob’s business partner on the show, and others. He walked up to a wide-eyed machine with a big bucket for a back. I asked Aidan who it was. “Dizzy!” he replied. Yes, it was Dizzy the Cement Mixer, described as “always spinning with curiosity.” Aidan pushed a button on the dashboard, and Dizzy said, “Brilliant!”The education factor: Do kids pick up on this building stuff? You bet. I pointed to Dizzy’s back and asked, “Is this concrete? I think this is concrete.” Aidan flashed me a cool look and said, “It’s ce-MENT.”

Sure enough, cement is an ingredient of concrete. But they’re not synonymous. And the building permit goes to … the 4-year-old. I felt like pushing Dizzy’s button and hearing her pronounce me brilliant, too, but figured that would be cheating.

The verdict: “I like Bob,” Aidan said emphatically when asked his favorite character. Did he want to come back when the exhibit was fully assembled? “Yes!” With a few crates still unpacked and electrical connections to be made on most of the displays, there’d be plenty for him to do on a return visit. It was clear that Aidan was eager to unleash his full building potential and explore the exhibit’s “green” themes.

The end: Alas, it came. This was a 4-year-old, after all. Aidan suddenly looked concerned. His attention was no longer on Bob’s hammers. He tugged at his friend’s hand. “Auntie Candice,” he said, “I have to go potty.”

The reporter can be reached at dmunro@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6373. Read his blog at fresnobeehive. com/author/donald_munro.

Plenty to see and do in summer

Along with “Bob the Builder — Project: Build It,” several other exhibitions at the Fresno Metropolitan Museum beckon visitors this summer:

"Have a Ball," a popular museum exhibition created in 1990, returns to share the second floor gallery with "Bob." The exhibit combines an arcade, amusement park, miniature golf course, playground, sporting event, laboratory and science fair into a hands-on science exhibition. Participants use the provided golf balls to learn basic scientific principles of energy, kinetics, and geometry. Runs: through Oct. 11.

"I Want Candy: The Sweet Stuff in American Art" is a traveling show that gathers more than 50 works from 40 contemporary artists that explore our nation’s love affair with sweets. The show reflects some of the most important trajectories of recent American art. The Fresno exhibition marks the only opportunity to see the show on the West Coast.Opens: July 8. Runs: through Aug. 30.

"Doug Hansen: Mother Goose in California" is based on the children’s ABC book Hansen created and illustrated. Words from nursery rhymes are at the heart of each illustrated letter of the alphabet. The geography and history of California are featured.Runs: through Sept. 20.

--The Fresno Bee

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