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Breaking ground for Bandera's newest museum

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

After four years of planning and fundraising, the Bandera Natural History Museum - formerly the Bandera Exotic Wildlife Museum - celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 17. The symbolic event took place on the packed-down earthen foundation that will serve as the facility's footprint.
The name change to the Bandera Natural History Museum reflects a broader scope of the museum's mission, which includes an addition of an outdoor dinosaur park. Replicas of nine dinosaurs with educational play stations and activities for children will be placed on the museum's eight-acre grounds.
Additionally, the museum will feature over 100 full body and head mounts and unique works of art from around the world. Life-sized murals in the form of dioramas, painted by artists from Mexico, will portray animals in their natural habitats.
The nonprofit educational facility will also offer Sensory Safaris to groups with special needs, enabling them to experience the animals through touch, sight and sound.
"Juan Infante came to me just over four years ago with a vision and dream to build a museum that would house mounts of animals from all over the world as well as his collection of artifacts and works of art," said Sully Woodland, who serves as the museum's chairman of the board of directors.
Members of the board of directors include Ken Finley, Mack Frazier, Don Giles, Juliet Kirchner, Joe and Cindy McMullen, Maggie Schumacher and Genie Strickland. Advisory members are Daniel Dominguez, Reagan Peterson and Infante, who also serves as Chairman Emeritus. Woodland thanked Peterson and his wife, Helen, for selling the land to the museum "at a very reasonable price."
Architect Barry Wagner of Fredericksburg created the traditional Hill Country design of the Bandera Natural History Museum. Heath LeStourgeon from Bandera County will construct the 8,000 square foot facility, which is expected to be completed by next spring. "It will be finished in less than 12 months," LeStourgeon quipped during the groundbreaking. "That's a guarantee!"
"We are excited that Bandera will now have two museums for people when they come to visit," Woodland continued. Acknowledging George Sharman as a representative from the Frontier Times Museum, Woodland noted, "The Frontier Times Museum offers a wonderful display of the history of Bandera County. We plan to work closely with them to serve this area. I think that, together, these two museums will attract more people to Bandera."
Speaking from his heart, Infante said, "I will turn 80 this year and I want to express my gratitude for this great accomplishment." He recalled growing up in his native Argentina, saying, "How little did I know what life had in store for me."
Infante noted that the similarity of the terrain of the Hill Country and his native country had led to his 40-year love affair with this area. He thanked the museum's board of directors for interpreting his vision so well and Woodland for selecting the board members so well.
"I have hunted all my life and now I am humbled that we will have a permanent home that will do justice to all these beautiful animals." This was something I wanted to do for this community that means so much to me," he said. "In less than one year, we will all be back for the inauguration of the Bandera Natural History Museum."
The museum will be located at 267 Old San Antonio Highway in Bandera.