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Published: Tuesday, 1/1/2008

Employees, visitors close the door on Toledo's COSI

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
COSI employee Karen Farrell closes the door for the final time at 5:45 p.m. yesterday as the museum ended its nearly 11-year run. More than 1,450 visitors showed up on its last day. (BLADE PHOTOS/JEREMY WADSWORTH)
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<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <b><font color=red>VIEW</b></font color=red>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20080101&Kategori=NEWS16&Lopenr=554350234&Ref=PH" target="_blank  "><b>COSI's last day</b></a> COSI employee Karen Farrell closes the door for the final time at 5:45 p.m. yesterday as the museum ended its nearly 11-year run. More than 1,450 visitors showed up on its last day. (BLADE PHOTOS/JEREMY WADSWORTH) <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/photo.gif> <b><font color=red>VIEW</b></font color=red>: <a href=" /apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Avis=TO&Dato=20080101&Kategori=NEWS16&Lopenr=554350234&Ref=PH" target="_blank "><b>COSI's last day</b></a>
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Toledoan Gwen Haynes-Burel, her two sons, and other relatives lingered inside COSI Toledo for a half hour or so past the time the downtown museum was to end its nearly 11-year run yesterday, giving various hands-on science exhibits a final shot.

There are other family-oriented activities in Toledo - such as visiting the Toledo Zoo and the Toledo Museum of Art - but COSI's closure from lack of funding will leave a void, said the mother of Kafele Burel, 9, and Jelani Burel, 5.

"This is just one less thing to do," Ms. Haynes-Burel said. "We'll miss coming down here."

Kids gather and watch the pulling of the plug on the counting computer at Cosi on Monday. Kids gather and watch the pulling of the plug on the counting computer at Cosi on Monday.
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COSI closed the last gate at about 5:45 p.m. yesterday, giving visitors an extra 45 minutes to finish playing while employees periodically cheered and threw confetti. Community leaders are continuing to discuss ways to reopen the museum, and voters may be asked a third time for public funding.

Yesterday, though, visitors such as 6-year-old Faith Crosby of Detroit and 7-year-old Morgan Girardin of Trenton, Mich., had to be content with their final day of making bubbles, playing with wood building planks, and other activities.

More than 1,450 people visited the science museum yesterday, more than three times last year's more typical Dec. 31 attendance of 451 visitors, said Lori Hauser, director of operations.

Mitchell Hering, 12, of Sylvania, Ohio, pulls the plug on the counting computer during Cosi's final minutes. Mitchell Hering, 12, of Sylvania, Ohio, pulls the plug on the counting computer during Cosi's final minutes.
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Employees stoically remained happy in front of children, parents, grandparents, and others in a concerted effort to give visitors fond memories of COSI.

But as COSI information systems specialist Josh Anderson prepared to have 12-year-old Mitchell Hering of Sylvania literally pull the plug on a counting computer he helped develop as a high school student, he admitted the scene was different behind closed doors.

"It's been a very emotional day," Mr. Anderson said. "We're all sitting in our offices, crying on each other's shoulders."

Still, Mr. Anderson posed for photos and kept a smile on his face as Mitchell, who is the son of a fellow COSI employee and has grown up in the museum, readied to let the counting computer stop at 45,350,000 at a few minutes after 5 p.m. The computer program had been counting in a young girl's recorded voice since the museum opened.

Poom Pipatjarasgit, 9, of Sylvania, Ohio, places his Cosi memory on the memory wall. Poom Pipatjarasgit, 9, of Sylvania, Ohio, places his Cosi memory on the memory wall.
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"It started with visitor interaction, and I want to end on that note - go out in style," Mr. Anderson said of the museum where he has been employed for more than four years.

"It started with visitor interaction, and I want to end on that note - go out in style," Mr. Anderson said of the museum where he has been employed for more than four years.

Many children said they were saddened by the museum's closure.

"It was a fun place to visit and go to, and now it's going to be gone," said 13-year-old Jess Moon of Royal Oak, Mich.

Said Brian Richmond, 12, of Oregon: "It's really sad because I was hoping when I get married and have kids, I could bring them here."

In November, Lucas County voters rejected for a second time a 0.167-mill levy request that would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home $5.21 in annual property taxes.

The COSI levy proposal was defeated Nov. 6 by 43,248 to 41,571 votes. That was a larger margin than the same request's first ballot appearance, during the 2006 general election, when it failed by 71,249 to 70,001 votes.

Property owners are burdened enough, and if COSI can't support itself through admission fees, then another way to fund the museum needs to be found, said Duane Gobbell of Sylvania, who was visiting COSI yesterday with his daughter, Danielle.

Various visitors said they remained hopeful the museum would reopen.

Said Karen Burket of Maumee, who visited COSI with her four children a half-dozen times a year:

"I wish there was some way they could have saved it. I still can't believe they're closing it down."

COSI buzzed with activity until the gates actually closed.

Tonya Newhouse, 13, of Sylvania got up the nerve to ride the popular high-wire cycle for the first time - while refusing to glance at the ground 20 feet below - as she and her grandmother, Jan Ricard of Perrysburg, paid their last visit.

"We've been coming here since she was real little, so it's kind of a nostalgia thing," Ms. Ricard said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.



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