Although his spirit has never left, Fred Rogers is coming home.
Thanks to the efforts of the McFeely - Rogers Foundation, the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, the Latrobe Art Center and dozens of community leaders and friends, visitors to Latrobe will soon have a place to come and honor the life and memory of the man who made such an amazing impact around the world.
“We’ve had questions from friends about when a statue or likeness of Fred was going to happen in Latrobe,” said Jim Okonak, executive director of the McFeely-Rogers Foundation. “We had discussions with the family and decided it might be an appropriate time to do this. And we decided to do a little more than pull the cover off a marker and statue.”
And thus was born Bringing Fred Home: four events, including a day-long family day to celebrate the life and impact Fred Rogers had on his community and the world.
“We were approached by Jim about putting a committee together,” said Gabi Nastuck, director of the Latrobe Art Center. “We put together a core group of people from the community and the Art Center, who helped create a vision for a year full of events to help ‘bring Fred home’. Then I went to work on it.”
What’s come out of that planning and work is this: On March 19th a Sweater Party was held at Rizzo’s in Crabtree to help kick off the event, and celebrate Mister Roger’s birthday.
A Daniel Tiger Tie-Dye Party will be held on May 14 at James H. Rogers Park, named after Fred Rogers’ father. Children will tie-dye a Daniel Tiger-themed T-shirt that they can wear when Daniel arrives on dedication day in June. The kids will get help from the Latrobe Art Center in making their t-shirts unique. There will be “make believe” cupcakes, face-painting and more.
The Mister Rogers Neighborhood Gala at the Latrobe Art Center will be held on June 10, the night before the dedication. The event will combine great art, food and wine. Chef Ray and Rachel Flowers of Sun Dawg Café will team up with Happy Camper Cakes, All Saints Brewery and Four Seasons Brewery. Attendees will get to see the puzzle exhibit before it is revealed to the public, as well as a special tribute to Mister Rogers Neighborhood by local artists.
The Puzzle Project is the brainchild of Brooklyn, N.Y. artist Tim Kelly who has the vision of creating the largest piece of collaborative art ever assembled and exhibited. Nastuck brought it to Latrobe and expects 2,000 of the 24-inch by 24-inch puzzle pieces to be sold here.
Those who purchase the pieces are asked to create something that is meaningful to them, leading to 2,000 unique western Pennsylvania pieces that will go to New York to become part of a 13,000 worldwide display.
The Bringing Fred Home Neighborhood Family Day will take place on June 11. This day-long event (from 11:30am – 5pm), will feature the dedication and unveiling of the historical marker and bronze statue which will take place at 1:43 p.m. The afternoon will include the arrival of Daniel Tiger on the Neighborhood Trolley, food vendors, trolley rides, live music, puppet shows, face painting, photo opportunities and more. Children will be encouraged to wear their Daniel Tiger t-shirts.
“This will be the biggest event we’ve ever had,” Nastuck said. “We think it will bring a whole new crowd to the downtown, not only from Latrobe but from all over.”