BRADENTON --Mark Rodgers isn't sure what to do with his Herodotus machine. He knows how to build a pyramid with it, but he hasn't decided whether to leave it in the lobby of the Bradenton Auditorium, or move it back into the room with the catapult and perpetual-motion machines.
"They just finished making it in Italy, and then they shipped it to us," Rodgers says as he shows a visitor how the Herodotus machine works. "We just got it today. We might leave it here because it's so big. We haven't decided yet."
Rodgers and his brother, John, are the directors of the Da Vinci Machines Exhibition, which has been drawing a steady stream of visitors to the Bradenton Auditorium since it opened
The exhibition brings together about 60 machines, based on Da Vinci's drawings and specifications and built by Florentine crafters from the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Italy. It's on loan to the Rodgers brothers.
Mark Rodgers is thrilled with the attendance here so far. The Rodgers brothers previously mounted the exhibition is Denver and St. Louis, and attendance here is on par with those much larger cities.
"It's been going very well," Mark Rodgers said. "We're getting as many people as we got in Denver."
He expects numbers to increase in upcoming weeks.
"December has always been one of our best months," he said. "And this is the first time we've done this in a tourist area."
Increasing numbers of seasonal residents will discover the exhibition, he said, as will local families looking for something to do with visiting relatives during the holiday season. Rodgers said he got a call from a family driving up from Miami to see the exhibition.
In January, young people will start coming.
"We got started too late for the school groups," Rodgers said.
The exhibition opened in mid-November, and most schools didn't have time to schedule a trip before the holiday break.
"But in January and February we have reservations for a lot of school groups," he said.
School groups from as far away as Tampa are planning to make the trip to Bradenton, and Rodgers said he won't be surprised if schools from as far away as Orlando eventually tour the exhibition. School groups get their own docent-guided tour of the exhibition, and students are allowed some time to explore on their own. About half the exhibit's machines are interactive, so visitors can actually work them.
Many exhibits are full-sized, but others are scale models. The newest addition, the Herodotus machine, is full-sized.
"It's named for Herodotus, the father of history," Rodgers said. "It's his concept of how they built the pyramids."
The machine is a combination of lifts and rollers that can maneuver a huge stone into place. If Da Vinci's vision is correct, the desert sand around the half-built pyramids would have been covered with hundreds of the machines.
Early indications are the exhibit attendance has had a ripple effect on other downtown operations. The South Florida Museum offers a package deal with all-day access to the museum and the Da Vinci exhibition, and one in every 10 museum visitors has bought the package since the exhibition opened.
Museum communication manager Jessica Schubick said some people come to the museum intending to also see the exhibition, some find out about the exhibition after they're inside the museum (and then upgrade to the combination package), and others go to the exhibition and find out about the museum.
"And some people come to the museum thinking the Da Vinci Exhibition is in the museum," Schubick said. "We have to tell them that we have an association, but it's a private exhibition."
Admission to the museum or the exhibition, or the combination admission, allows people to come and go all day.
Combination tickets are $23.95 for adults, $20.95 for seniors (62 and over) and military, and $17.95 for youngsters 4-14.
Da Vinci Machines Exhibition admission is $15.95 for adults, $13.95 for seniors and military and $11.95 for children.
The exhibition will run until April 15 at Bradenton Auditorium, 1005 First Ave. W., Bradenton. Hours are from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. It will also open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays starting in January.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.