Sesame Street visits Okinawa military installations
CAMP FOSTER - As Elmo took the stage, children of all ages stood up to join him in a dance as the Sesame Street party began.
The Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families visited Okinawa Sept. 25 - Oct. 2 to host a series of performances for military families.
The touring group performed at Kadena Air Base and Camps Foster, Kinser and Courtney during the visit, focusing on connecting its message with the children in the audience.
“When a parent is called to serve in the military, the entire family serves,” said first lady Michelle Obama in a prerecorded video shown to the audience. “It can be especially hard on the children to sort through the changes and emotions involved.”
The Sesame Street/USO Experience was designed to bring military families together and show children that they have nothing to fear when they change duty stations, according to Nicole McClendon, an entertainment tour producer with the USO.
“This Sesame Street show has a special character that is only in this performance, named Katie,” said McClendon. “Katie plays the role of a military child whose parents are getting ready to change duty stations. Throughout the performance, her friends from Sesame Street are trying to show Katie that she has nothing to worry about, and teach her ways to overcome her fear of moving.”
This is the USO’s longest-running entertainment tour, having hosted more than 700 performances in 11 different countries, according to Jeff Mensch, the company manager for the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families.
“In the past five years that this performance has been going, it has been performed in Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Italy, the U.S. and many other places,” said Mensch. “We try to go and visit wherever a base full of military families is (located) to perform for them.
“No matter what country we are in though, it’s always a great joy to see the (children) smiling, dancing and interacting with the Sesame Street characters,” added Mensch.
During the show, the Sesame Street crew performs multiple song and dance routines to help Katie understand that moving is not a bad thing, and that she is not losing any of her friends, according to McClendon.
“There are several opportunities during the 30-minute performance where the performers come off stage and interact with the children, whether it’s shaking hands or high-fiving them,” said McClendon. “What seems to be the children’s favorite part, and mine to watch, is when the cones are removed and the children are right next to the stage, reaching out and interacting with all the performers as they perform their final song.”
The performers used the opportunity to get the families involved and make sure they not only understood the message but enjoyed the show.
“I think it is important for my daughters to know that they will always be able to make new friends, wherever we may be stationed,” said Rhian E. Moore, an attendee and Marine spouse. “I was surprised at how much fun I had singing and dancing along, and the look on my daughter’s face when Elmo came on stage was priceless.”
Also, the multiple venues and show dates allowed for a large number of families throughout Okinawa to attend the event, according to Moore.
“I would recommend the show to every military family with elementary school kids,” said Moore. “There was a lot of singing and dancing, and I think it is great when these events happen.”
After the completion of the show, families were given gifts and afforded opportunities to take photos in front of the Sesame Street sign and with the characters.
“Our goal is to ensure that the children have a fantastic time while they are at the show,” said McClendon. “It’s always a terrific sight to watch the children leaving with smiles on their faces and gifts in their hands. That is what makes traveling around the world worth it.”