The annual Fred Fest, a festival celebrating the life of Latrobe native and children’s television host Fred Rogers, took place March 17 to 21 and was intentionally minimized in comparison with preceding years.
Dr. Dana Winters, director of Fred Rogers Center programs, explained that the large number of events surrounding Rogers was part of the decision to keep Fred Fest festivities smaller.
Winters emphasized that the events have always been student driven, student led and student organized. The events naturally vary from year to year as different students become involved.
“Our role is to support the students as they develop plans for Fred Fest as well as many other ideas to continue Fred’s work,” Winters said.
Additionally, this year’s events coincided with a busy time at the Fred Rogers Center, as an entire year of festivities are planned with regards to Mr. Rogers.
The collaborators’ yearly goal is to celebrate Fred Rogers in a way that furthers his legacy.
“This year’s presentations [focused] on the 50th year since the first broadcast of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Winters said.
Adding to the responsibility of planning for the 90th anniversary of Rogers’ birthday and 50th anniversary of the broadcast are the potential releases of a Forever Stamp commemorating “Rogers and the Neighborhood,” the documentary on Rogers’ life and his biography.
Winters elaborated on how those working at the Fred Rogers Center appreciate the opportunity to share the legacy of Fred Rogers with the entire Saint Vincent community.
“We want students, faculty and staff to be welcome in exploring his work, through the Archive, research and through our ongoing projects,” Winters said.
Winters added that they are excited about the on-campus, and off-campus celebrations of Fred’s legacy, including their re-showing of the first episode a few weeks previous and a planned showing of “It’s You I Like,” a PBS special looking at Rogers’ life and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood which is scheduled for April.
Sydney Schoff, junior communication major and Fred Rogers Scholar, expressed her excitement over Fred Fest and her admiration of the honoree.
“[Rogers’] genuine care for everyone he met is something I try to embody in my daily life, and Fred Fest activities allow me to spread that love he showed to others along with my fellow Fred Rogers Scholars.” Schoff said.
This year’s Fred Fest involved a showing of “The Sky Above Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” at the Angelo Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit in the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion with craft activities afterward for children on March 17, and a celebration of the 90th anniversary of Rogers’ birth on March 20, where Fred Rogers Center employees and Scholars passed out cupcakes from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and allowed visitors to write notes about what Rogers meant to them in the Robert S. Carey Center.
Schoff explained that Fred Fest has had similar activities in the past, but the number of events depends on when the anniversary occurs during the week.
Fred Fest is a joint collaboration between Fred Rogers Scholars, their advisor Dr. Dana Winters, and the staff of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. All events are annually open to the public, especially children, and are free.
Photo: SVC Flickr