By Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff WriterOctober 25, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 25, 2012) -- The Sesame Street Experience tour returned to Fort Rucker Oct. 18-19 with a new story and a new character that catered specifically to military children, who were up and dancing throughout the performances.
The show is a partnership between the USO and Sesame Street, and helps children with the adjustment of being in a new place and not being afraid of change, said Tom Zaizar, company manager of the Sesame Street and USO Experience tour.
"Katie was created specifically for this tour. She is a military child that has to deal with moving to a new base, and Elmo and all the friends try to help her with her transition to keep the friends that she has made at her current installation and give her the tools to make new friends at the new base," he said.
This is the second time the tour has come to Fort Rucker; it was here last in the spring of 2010.
"Sesame is always a huge hit," said Brian Jackson, Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation program manager. "The actors and staff are always easy to work with and the USO is doing a great job with the tour. It's just something that military Families in general will like."
All four 30-minute shows were sold out, indicating that sitting on the gymnasium floor at the youth center did not deter many Families from claiming tickets.
"The show is made for a gym; it's not made for a theater setting. It's perfect for kids to sit on the gym floor with parents so they can see the characters up close and personal, take photos and really experience the show," said Jackson, adding that the interaction that the children had during the show with the characters seemed to be their favorite part.
Several times during the show the Muppets walked out into the audience in a taped off runway that stretched into the crowd so characters could safely shake hands, hug and give high-fives to children.
"I liked when they came out into the audience so we could say "Hi!" and touch them. I got to meet Grover," said Brinklei Thomas, 6.
Roughly 2,000 people saw the show, which tried to teach children that change doesn't have to be a bad thing.
"This show is one of a kind. Children can relate to the story because of Katie's struggle with change. It's a great way to show kids in a fun atmosphere the different struggles they have to go through as a military child, and it helps them overcome those struggles in a positive way," said Jackson.
Fort Rucker, being a Family-oriented community, is the perfect place to host the show, said Jackson.
"A lot of our events cater to military Families and Sesame Street is the perfect avenue to bring a form of entertainment that satisfies their needs and brings enjoyment to their lives," he said.
The show is geared towards toddlers and young children, but adults could be seen swaying to the music and singing along to the songs, a fact that Jackson said brings satisfaction to everyone at DFMWR.
"Everyone enjoys the show. Seeing the smiles on everyone's faces in the crowd is a reward in itself. It's just nice to sit back and watch that," he said.
Soldiers, like 2nd Lt. Brandon Thomas, B Company, 1st Battalion, 145th Aviation Regiment, were pleased with the new story line.
"The show was great. It brought a lot of life into what our Families have to go through. The best part is that the USO and DFMWR are willing to put together programs like this and allow it to be free so Families can come and enjoy it, and they tailored it for the military to help our children," said Thomas.
Zaizar said the crew was enjoying its time at Fort Rucker and members were excited to come back after seeing that the base was on the 2012 itinerary.
"We are familiar with Fort Rucker and are happy to return. We are just thankful to be performing for military Families," he said, adding that the crew was pleased to give back to military Families that sacrifice so much.
"We are here to give back. It's very rewarding. This show is a thank you for the huge sacrifices that military Families make. This is a dream job for all of us, and this is our way to show our appreciation for Soldiers and their Families. The USO has been so generous. Thank you military Families for all you do," he said.