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Entertainment & Arts

Mayor Garcetti, who grew up loving the show, declares Sesame Street Day in L.A.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, Big Bird and Dodgers starting pitcher Rich Hill
Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, Big Bird and Dodgers starting pitcher Rich Hill at Dodger Stadium Friday to celebrate Sesame Street Day in L.A.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

With a little help from Big Bird, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared Friday to be Sesame Street Day in L.A.

Sporting a Dodger-blue tie and accompanied by a group of children from the Dodgers Summer Baseball Camps and Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill, Garcetti met up with Big Bird, who wore a striped jersey with the number 50 on the back.

On the field of Dodger Stadium Friday morning, the event capped off a summer road trip for the yellow-feathered Muppet and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind “Sesame Street.” The beloved children’s TV program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and its reach has been vast, including for the mayor.

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“I watched ‘Sesame Street’ every day as a kid,” Garcetti told The Times. “It was my third parent. It was the guide for not only how to interact with the world, but how to deal with your emotions and learn about being responsible and doing it all in a fun way.”

Big Bird left the nest of his iconic neighborhood in New York in June to embark on a cross-country vacation. Sesame Workshop’s family festivals fanned out to 10 cities nationwide — including this weekend’s free festival at Woodley Park in Van Nuys on Saturday — to film segments for the forthcoming season of the pioneering show.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, center, with Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill and Big Bird at Dodger Stadium.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, center, with Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill and participating children, visited with “Sesame Street” character Big Bird at Dodger Stadium on Friday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Big Bird’s journey — and the friends he’s made along the way — will be featured in a running narrative when the 50th anniversary season premieres on HBO in November.

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“I love Los Angeles. I’ve met so many amazing people,” Big Bird said Friday morning alongside the mayor. “I went to the beach, I went to the Hollywood sign. But you know what I’m most excited for? Being here at Dodger Stadium!”

Always up for a teachable moment, Big Bird took some time to teach kids about the essence of baseball: “Remember that baseball is all about team work and having fun. Oh, and having lots of sunflower seeds.”

While declaring Sesame Street Day, Garcetti presented Big Bird with a framed written declaration.

“So many of us grew up [with you]. You’re our hero, we look up to you — literally we look up to you,” Garcetti commented to Big Bird, who stands at more than 8 feet tall.

After Big Bird left, Garcetti and Hill stretched and played catch with the children until they got a surprise visit from Big Bird’s numbers-loving friend, Count von Count.

The Count had his finest Dodgers jersey on as he greeted Garcetti and the children. “I do not mean to interrupt, I just wanted to come out to say have a marvelous time,” said the Count.

Garcetti then poked fun at “Sesame Street’s” master counter: “Do you always think the announcers are talking to you when they say it’s a 2-1 count?”

“That’s right, I do,” responded the Count. “You can write some jokes for me.”

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Mayor Eric Garcetti with Count von Count.
Mayor Eric Garcetti shakes “hands” with Count von Count.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The jovial encounter with the “Sesame Street” crew was a lighthearted change of pace for the mayor, who’s been facing criticism over homelessness and other issues at City Hall.

The event also came at great time for Big Bird and friends, who are soon to incorporate a new element into their program.

Viewers young and old can expect the towering character to get permission from Granny Bird to flee the nest and check back in with Elmo and his neighbors via video chat throughout the upcoming season.

It’s one of the many ways the show, the first-ever TV series to be honored by the Kennedy Center, has embraced and plans to responsibly use technology for the digital natives viewing it.

HBO and “Sesame Street” nailed the mash-up game on Thursday by turning Elmo into a peace-broker on “Game of Thrones” and casting Cookie Monster as the newest — if not strangest — visitor to “Westworld.”
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“What we want people to understand is ‘Sesame Street’ is our iconic flagship show. But we’re so much more than a television show,” said Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president of curriculum and content.

“And in order for us to achieve our mission of helping kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder, we need to have what we call a ‘circle of care’ — so working directly with the children, but we also need to reach the parents, the educators, the community leaders in order to have the most impact,” she added.

While in the L.A. area, the production also filmed segments at other local landmarks, including Santa Monica State Beach and the Hollywood sign, which will be featured on the series when it returns in the fall.


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