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Bong Center increases attendance, returns to rotating exhibits

The Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center announced paid admissions in 2017 increased by 1,627 from 2016, the largest increase in attendance ever for the center.

"We have renewed our marketing and freshened up our programming," said Hayes Scriven, executive director. Since March, the center has hosted six traditional speaker programs, and either partnered or hosted five special events. The center also opened up a new World War I display.

"I am most proud of how the Military Vehicle Show went for us this past August," Scriven said. "To me it really showed that there is an audience for what we are putting out there in all ages. We had over 500 people in attendance which is truly amazing."

In 2018, the center plans to continue to host many traditional speaker programs, but is also creating new community events, like the Stuffie Boot Camp, expanding Camp Bong and a big Memorial Day event. In addition, the center is planning on adding many new unique activities to the Military Vehicle Show.

"There is a definitely a different energy around the center these days and we couldn't be more proud of the renewed energy at the Bong Veterans Historical Center," said Board Chair Terry Lundberg.

The center is also in the midst of an exhibit gallery update that will bring back the major rotating exhibit program. For the last few years, the center has added small displays here and there, but has gone away from major exhibit updates.

"For a museum to stay relevant, we need to have a reason for people to come back, and one way to do that is through major rotating exhibits," said Scriven. "We are finally going to show people where Maj. Bong was in New Guinea and how he traveled from place to place over the course of the war."

The upgrade and move will allow the center to bring back the Rotating Exhibit room and install Vietnam, Korea, Cold War and modern eras in the main gallery. The centerpiece of the gallery will still be the P-38 and Maj. Bong's story, but the Bong Veterans Center plans to highlight other era conflicts and tell more veterans stories in the main gallery and in the rotating exhibit room."