FORT RILEY, Kan. - More than 400 Families packed Long Fitness Center's basketball court for a performance of the Sesame Street Experience for Military Families July 29.

The show, sponsored by the United Service Organizations, is the first Sesame Street performance of its kind to be specifically written for military children.

The show started touring in 2008 and has traveled to nine countries to visit military installations, said Tom Zaizar, company manager.

The company is currently on a five-month U.S. tour that will cover 40 bases and installations. Fort Riley is the 30th installation, with the show scheduled to wrap up in September.

The 28-minute show features Elmo, Zoe, Cookie Monster, Grover and Rosita.

"Elmo teaches children how to deal with being away from a Family member and they sing a song about writing letters," Zaizar said.

The military-specific show got its start in 2006 when an episode of Sesame Street featured military children.

"We wanted to do something more and called the USO. We were looking to expand to Families," said Lonnie Cooper, USO tour manager.

The show toured U.S. military bases in Europe last fall for eight weeks before traveling to Asia.

Tickets for the Fort Riley show were free and given away almost immediately.

"About 450 tickets were given out per show," Cooper said.

Dani Cooper, choreographer for the show, said participating in a military-focused performance was her way of saying "thank you" to the Soldiers and Families.

"Thank you to you and your Families, for all you do every day," she said to the audience before the show started.

For the dance numbers throughout the show, Dani Cooper said the dancers practice the routine for about two weeks before performing it live.

"We rehearse from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. almost every day," she said.

It is not uncommon for the characters to receive presents from children after the show.

"Cookie Monster gets cookies sometimes. We also get letters and toys from the children," she said.

Dani Cooper said she plans to continue to tour with the show.

"It's the most rewarding experience I've ever had," she said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16