Big Bird, portrayed by Matt Vogel of KCK, sings happy birthday to ‘Sesame Street’ and Hallmark Kaleidoscope
He’s a bird with big yellow feathers, his favorite color is yellow and he just so happens to be from Kansas City, Kansas. Who could that be?
“Big Bird!” screamed 50 curious children as the “Sesame Street” celebrity waltzed in the room Friday morning, greeting everyone.
His appearance was part of a 10-city tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the show. Coincidentally, it’s also the 50th anniversary of Hallmark Kaleidoscope in Crown Center, the children’s activity center that hosted the event. Another bonus: Big Bird is played by Matt Vogel, who grew up in KCK.
Cheryl Williams, exhibit supervisor for Kaleidoscope, started off by asking how Big Bird liked KC.
“Oh, Cheryl, I love it,” he said. “I took a ride on the streetcar and I visited the science museum and I saw the Crown Center fountain.”
Big Bird could barely be heard over the excited children yelling to get his attention.
Williams told the children they’d get to make party hats and reminded them to use their imagination and have fun.
“What if I make a mistake?” Big Bird asked.
“That’s OK if you make a mistake. Don’t worry about it and keep going,” said Williams.
Another “Sesame Street” celebrity on hand was Count von Count (also voiced by Vogel — he does Kermit the Frog, too). They were joined by Mayor Sly James, who was there to highlight the achievements of Sesame Street in Communities, which kicked off in 2017 to help local organizations help KC’s younger kids.
That’s how kids from The Children’s Place and the St. Mark Center Head Start program got to be in Friday’s audience.
Maggie Miller may be a grownup, Hallmark’s public relations and social media specialist, but she said it was still exciting to see Big Bird.
“My older brother, Andy, was so obsessed with ‘Sesame Street’ and Big Bird,” she said, so much so that he convinced himself Big Bird was his best friend.
Williams said she was nervous at first. “I was anxious earlier because I was hanging out with a celebrity,” she said.
James proclaimed the day as “Sesame Street Day” to officially recognize Sesame Workshop’s commitment to the children of Kansas City.
After the event, Vogel, out of costume and speaking in a voice a bit deeper and less nasal than Big Bird’s, talked about his return to Kansas City.
“It’s a really humbling experience to be able to come back to my hometown,” he said. “Having left here many years ago, to be able to bring back some of the imagination and creativity that I’ve picked up over the years. That actually started back in Kansas City when I was a child.”
It’s always a thrill to meet his fans, he said.
“It’s an amazing thing to be able to see the look of wonder and innocence in a child’s face as they’re looking up at that big yellow bird.”
The “Sesame Street” celebration continues on Saturday with a sold-out family festival at Theis Park.