Not make-believe: Kids can visit the neighborhood

It was an especially poignant moment when I learned that Fred Rogers had passed away. The man loomed especially large for me, because I was raised in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood. Really.
I remember watching the first black-and-white programs as a child. They aired right before dinnertime, and I was a fan of Mister Rogers even before the show was available nationally. I grew up with shy Daniel Striped Tiger, flamboyant Lady Elaine Fairchilde, the nifty-galifty X the Owl, and meow Henrietta Pussycat. My sisters and I sewed our own puppets of King Friday XIII and Queen Sara Friday Saturday to make our own Neighborhood of Make-Believe. I even had the chance to shake hands with the great man himself.
Believe it or not, some of Mister Rogers’ friends will be visiting our neighborhood, and adoring fans of the longest running children’s television program ever will have the chance to go up and shake their real-life hands, too. The oh-so-energetic Speedy Delivery Man, Mr. McFeely, and not-so-ordinary Purple Panda will bring the spirit of Make-Believe to the Children’s Museum of Richmond next weekend as part of a community festival theme, “Nurturing our Neighborhood.”
Kids will also have the chance to become part of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Folks from public television’s Community Idea Stations will lead drama projects that allow kids to jump right into the scene on some of Mister Rogers’ memorable storylines. These folks will be hosting arts and crafts projects, too.
The weekend features a number of grown-up things such as lectures and seminars, including a keynote address by Ellen Galinsky, a leading authority on work-family issues and a key consultant to Fred Rogers for many years. Galinsky will speak on “The Ages and Stages of Parenthood.”
Professor Margaret Mary Kimmel from the University of Pittsburgh, also a close associate of Rogers’, will lead a workshop on “The Power of Story.” Her focus will be on ways to instill a love of stories, books, and reading in young children. Afterward, she will practice what she preaches by telling some tales to the tots. 
This is a rare opportunity for kids to see with their own eyes and touch with their own hands the real-life personalities who exist behind the TV screen. It’s also a chance for parents to get some first-rate advice from the folks who gave Make-Believe its substance.

The Nurturing Our Neighborhood community festival comes to the Children’s Museum of Richmond April 4-6. Friends from the Neighborhood of Make-Believe and Community Idea Station will be at the museum April 5 and 6 from 2-5pm. These activities are included in the price of admission: $6.50. Ellen Galinshy speaks on April 4 at 7:30pm at VCU’s ALLTEL Pavilion. Tickets are $15. Margaret Mary Kimmel’s workshop is at the museum on April 6 at 2pm. Tickets are $10 and include admission.