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Amid the reptiles in the rotating exhibit at the Museum of the Rockies Friday morning, Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, clad in cowboy boots and a Museum of the Rockies mask, pointed out a snake hiding in some foliage to a kid looking for it in the glass exhibit.

Cooney stopped by the museum on his way to visit a COVID-19 testing site in Gardiner to talk with museum staff about recent grant funding that helped the institution get up and running safely after shutting down March 17 because of COVID-19.

“That money allowed us to take the time to open slowly,” said Alicia Harvey, the museum’s director of marketing. “It really allowed us to be able to offset some of the costs that would have been very difficult to absorb because we weren’t making money (during the closure).”

The museum received a $10,000 grant from the state Coronavirus Relief Fund, an emergency fund set up to help businesses and nonprofits make it through the shutdowns.

That money paid for banners to remind visitors to clean their hands at the sanitizing stations stocked with Wildrye Distilling hand sanitizer, blue-and-gold dinosaur print stickers on the ground that remind folks to stay 6 feet apart and the plexiglass that separates staff from visitors at the museum’s front desk and in the gift shop.

It also helped fund a ticketing system to monitor how many people are coming and going and ensure that the museum doesn’t exceed its designated maximum capacity, said membership and annual giving manager Callie Hamilton.

The museum reopened on May 28 for members only and to the public on June 3. It been operating five days a week instead of the usual seven, but that will change on July 1. On that same day, both the Living History Farm and the Taylor Planetarium will reopen.

The planetarium will have limited capacity to allow for proper social distancing, and museum staff will sanitize between showings.

Statewide, more than $28.9 million has been distributed from the fund, with $4.6 million of that going to Gallatin County businesses and nonprofits.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at or at (406) 582-2651.