Ten years ago, Penny Holbrook walked into the Children's Museum of Northern Nevada and began doing a little of everything. She became a fixture, one of the most recognizable faces of the museum and the children's beloved Ms. Penny.
"I love the museum," said Holbrook, a volunteer and member of the board of directors. "I'm an old kindergarten teacher. When we came into town, I knew what I wanted to do."
"She's been the driving force for various events," said Jim Peckham, the executive director for the museum, who also directs F.I.S.H. "Just about any kind of cultural day, she's been behind it."
On Sunday, the museum will host an ice cream social from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. in her honor as she retires from her active role due to family needs.
"They think I'm really leaving, but I'm not," she said with a mischievious tone she may have learned from her students. "I refuse to give it up completely."
Holbrook will still help out now and then, but not as consistently as she and her husband, Mark, spend more time caring for her 92-year-old mother-in-law in California.
"She comes first," Holbrook said.
The museum may be a lower priority now, but it's still a priority.
This week, Holbrook is teaching the five-day Kids Summer Art Camp, which she describes as "wonderful."
"We make lots of messes and have lots of fun."
One of Holbrook's favorite activities is the weekly Books & Brags events. Each Tuesday, Ms. Penny reads to the children who show up and then they work on crafts related to the book. Taking over for her will be Paula Armstrong and Jamie Castle.
"Both of them will be doing Books & Brags. When I'm in town, I get to come in and do it sometimes," Holbrook said.
"I love Books & Brags. Watching the kids start out at 2 (years) and come back and now they're in kindergarten and all of a sudden doing art projects."
The museum, with Holbrook often in the lead, has also developed cultural celebrations that have grown over the years. For Cinco de Mayo, Asian New Year, St. Patrick's Day and Hawaiian Lei Day, the museum brings in traditional dancers and other performers. Crafts and activities are based on the culture, such as Chinese lanterns, demonstrations of origami and using chopsticks for Asian New Year; hula lessons and making leis for Hawaiian Lei Day.
"Being from Hawaii, I like all the different cultures," she said.
Holbrook is also quick to point out the efforts of others, giving credit to Peckham for the upcoming LEGO exhibit.
"The Art of the Brick, Nathan Sawaya," is a museum show touring North America with the intricate art of Nathan Sawaya using LEGO bricks as an art medium. It will be at the children's museum June 24-Aug. 19.
"The museum is such a special place," Holbrook concluded. "It's a little gem."
*corrected the day of the event