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'Future' festivities

Movie buffs and kids of all ages were treated to 1.21 gigawatts of excitement Saturday at ScienceWorks.

Staff and volunteers at ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum sported the futuristic fashions predicted to be worn by 2015 in "Back to the Future Part II," such as jeans with pockets pulled out and multihued hologram hats. Replica props from the Back to the Future film series, such as Pepsi Perfect bottles predicted to be available and a (sadly non-functional) Mattel Hoverboard complete with box.

"We love picking themes of things people are already excited about," said Summer Brandon, director of educational programs at ScienceWorks. Events planned for the day included an opportunity for kids to make circuits shaped like Flux Capacitors and a green-screen activity to teach about film special effects.

Brandon wore a white radiation suit similar to the one worn by Dr. Emmett Brown in the first "Back to the Future" film. Like the benevolent mad scientist of the film series, Brandon enthusiastically demonstrated the power of static electricity and lightning using a Van de Graaff generator. Audience volunteers stepped on a plastic stool and put their hand on the machine. Among the volunteers was Helman Elementary School fourth-grader Sawyer Harris, whose hair stood up once charged with static electricity. Brandon blew bubbles at Sawyer, which were drawn to the static charge, and small cotton balls Brandon had Sawyer hold flew out once he opened his hand.

"It was pretty dang cool," Sawyer said after the presentation.

Kids of all ages could also get hands-on with a DeLorean sports car. High beams shone and hazards flashed as kids and kids-at-heart took turns opening the gull-wing doors and sitting in the Irish-built car. 

As children handled the sports car's stainless steel body panels and pressed down on its bumper, owner Mark Vanyo, wearing a Marty McFly-style orange vest, was significantly more casual than many owners of a collector car more than three decades out of production would be.

"They can't hurt it. It's stainless steel," Vanyo said, adding that wiping the body panels with washer fluid removes smudges and fingerprints.

Vanyo drove it to Ashland from his home in Bothell, Wash. He said he's owned it for 14 years, and drove it daily for seven. It's serviced regularly at a DeLorean specialist shop in Bellevue, Wash.

The museum holds special events quarterly, but the "Back to the Future"-themed event is the museum's first attempt to fit events into one day instead of two.

"Partners like Mark couldn't be here for a weekend, but he can be here for a day," Brandon said. 

DeLorean enthusiast Delmar Hussey of Central Point said he could tell Vanyo's DMC-12 was a 1981 model by the fuel filler cap on the hood, opening up conversation with Vanyo about his car. The 1982 and 1983 model years required the entire front hood of the mid-engined car to be lifted to refuel.

Hussey, who came with his sons Hayden and Holden to the event, said his home is filled with DeLorean parts and memorabilia. Hussey said his enthusiasm stems from when the original "Back to the Future" film debuted in 1985. He was seven when the film came out, and the stainless steel DeLorean was one of the first cars he recognized as distinctive.

"I've tried to buy one three times," Hussey said.

Vanyo bought his DeLorean in 2001, and the car needed about two months with the specialist to restore and refurbish it to the reliable condition needed to drive it daily. The car's distinctive doors drew him to the car, and people instantly recognize it once they're open.

"I'll leave the gull wing doors open when I'm refueling," Vanyo said.

—Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Sawyer Harris, 10, of Ashland tests out a Van de Graaff generator during The Future of Back to the Future special event at ScienceWorks on Saturday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
Alex Donnelly, 11, of Ashland, tests out a DeLorean during the Future of Back to The Future special event at ScienceWorks on Saturday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch