Summit County Library invites the neighborhood to celebrate Mr. Rogers
The Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch wants to make Friday a “beautiful day in the neighborhood.”
The staff will do this by hosting the Mr. Rogers Extravaganza, a celebration of children’s television icon Fred Rogers that will start at 7 p.m., said Kirsten Nilsson, youth services librarian of the Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch.
The evening will feature a free screening of Morgan Neville’s documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” a competition for best Mr. Rogers impersonation and a craft project.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” which tells the story of Rogers’ life, his activism and his work on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” made its first appearance in Park City at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, garnering near-universal acclaim.
Nilsson agrees with the critics.
“The film is spectacular, and I cried and cried when I first saw it a few weeks ago,” Nilsson said. “It’s so beautiful and a little subversive for his era. It is so thought provoking.”
The film, Nilsson said, shows how Rogers, a Pennsylvania native and ordained Presbyterian minister, spread a message of acceptance through the airwaves.
One of the “Neighborhood” scenes highlighted, which aired in 1969, featured the character of Officer Clemmons, played by African-American singer Francois Clemmons.
The scene shows Rogers standing barefoot in a wading pool when Clemmons comes to visit. At the time, the statement was bold.
“Mr. Rogers asks the policeman to take off his shoes and socks and wade in the pool with him,” she said. “Now, that isn’t such a big deal today, but back then, in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, this was pretty significant.”
The film also examines how Rogers handled the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.
Rogers was at a loss for ways to reach a shell-shocked nation after the televised mass murder of nearly 3,000 Americans, a cataclysmic event of which Tuesday marks the 17th anniversary.
“At first he didn’t know how to address it, but he knew he had to,” Nilsson said. In subsequent interviews, Rogers says he turned to advice from his mother.
“Look for the helpers,” he often recalled.
Nilsson, who was a couple of years older than Rogers’ primary audience, still enjoyed watching the PBS show and even gained practical knowledge from it during its nearly 33-year run.
“I always loved it because he showed me how to make paste out of flour and water,” she said with a laugh.
Still, Nilsson developed a deeper understanding of Rogers after watching “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.”
“He looked at the idea that ‘children are special’ from a different angle, meaning he wasn’t about giving participation trophies,” she said. “He wasn’t about encouraging entitlement. His message was more basic than that. He was all about finding the special individualities and uniqueness of the children.”
In addition to the film screening, the Mr. Rogers Extravaganza will feature a Mr. Rogers costume contest and crafts.
“Kids and parents can wear their cardigans and tennis shoes, and we’ll give out prizes for the best dressed Mr. Rogers cosplay,” said Nilsson. “And if they bring extra shoes, they will get an additional prize.”
The craft project will be the creation of “kindness rocks,” stones displaying positive slogans in public places.
“I think Mr. Rogers would have loved kindness rocks,” Nilsson said, after a pause.
The Mr. Rogers Extravaganza will be held on Friday, Sept. 14, at the Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch, 1885 W. Ute Blvd. The event is free and open to the public. For information, visit the Summit County Library’s website at http://www.thesummitcountylibrary.org.
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