Thursday, February 2, 2012

Just Kidding Around

By Misty L. Harris

It’s strange what the brain retains. I can barely remember what I did last week (my friends don’t bother to ask me “do you remember that time” because they know I will say no) let alone the early years of my childhood. I do, however, remember an obsession with a particular show that aired on another station when I was younger. It was Romper Room. I loved it.

And while I couldn’t wait for it to come on, I was more concerned about the end of the show. You see, there was this magic mirror that the woman held up to her face and as the camera zoomed in on her she would tell everyone who she saw and how much of a “special day” each child had. I waited for her to say my name everyday and to my dismay she never said “Misty had a special day today”. My feelings were hurt. My sisters Becky and Jennifer had “special days” according to Romper Room (and they didn’t even watch the show) but never Misty! Why never Misty? It was a question that perplexed me until, like so many other mysteries of life were explained to me, I found out… THERE WAS NO MAGIC MIRROR. But looking back, the beauty of that show was that there was personalization in the message (if not directed to the "Mistys" of the world… to all the other names that came out of that mirror!) And like so many of the PBS Kids programs aired on WNED-TV, there is a connection with the audience that can’t be measured while at home. Where can it be measured? Two words: Kid Fest.

I’ve never felt more like I was at a rock concert than when I work the WNED Kid Fest Character Breakfast. No matter how cold it has been in the past, the line never decreases in length at this event. Ticket holders flock downtown in the wee hours of the morning to be the first to get the best table for “face time” with their favorite character. It’s intense! These “PBS rock stars” are more popular than the man in the red suit! Jim R.- one of our official crowd-hypers, raises the anticipation by teasing the audience with names like Super Why, Princess Presto, Curious George and as bottoms lift from their seats they are reminded that the characters will come to them, no need to relocate. But how could they not? These are the friends that speak to them every morning, personally. Each child is thinking “he knows me,” “we count together,” “we sing together,” “Elmo’s my bud.” But then the unexpected happens, the character comes out and they’re not as small as they appear to be on TV. There’s hesitation, the familiar is not so familiar and many don’t know whether to run and hug or run and hide behind Mom and Dad. It takes a while for the familiarity to come back and with a few “high-fives” from Sid the Science Kid, a hug from Clifford and a thumbs-up from the Cat in the Hat, Kid Fest is officially back in business! The screaming, the shouting and sheer elation is only the beginning of what is certain to be a jam-packed fun-filled weekend.

The party moves over to the WNED Studios where the station has been transformed. There’s so much to do! Face painting (be advised, this is one of the most popular vendors at Kid Fest) arts and crafts, games and live performances fill Studio 1A from wall to wall. Of course, the stars of the show make appearances, shake a few hands and take pictures with their adoring fans.

This year, the theme is “Pets and Animals” and will feature demonstrations by Doug Ventura Pet Detective from the Buffalo Museum of Science and the SPCA Wildlife Education Program. There will be lots of of singing and jumping around as the performers fill the rooms with happy songs. Songs you may or mar not know but definitely songs that you won’t be able to get out of your head by the end of the day. Parents - bring comfy shoes and patience! Kids - get ready to have some fun and be prepared to greet your larger than life, rock star PBS friends who won’t need a magic mirror to recognize you and tell you that you're awesome. You’re already friends!

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