Meteorologist Mike Randall brought his magic and ventriloquism show to the Barker Common one recent afternoon to entertain kids enrolled in the Fredonia-Pomfret Department of Recreation youth program.
The show, Mike Randall and Friends, is designed to encourage children to use their imaginations and to read. Randall combines puppeteering, props, ventriloquism and sleight of hand with a lot of kid-friendly humor and audience participation. Early in the show, kids learn a new magic word, "have a banana," to help him complete his magical antics with his magic wand, a large plastic banana.
Randall had the crowd laughing with his "nephew Timmy," a puppet with whom he conversed about Timmy's disdain for wearing shoes. When Randall had one child up on stage with him, he asked if she'd ever heard the word 'karaoke' before. When she replied she hadn't, he explained it's Japanese for bad singing. From there, he segued into something not quite resembling an origami trick, but the result was a tissue paper hat he put on the girl's head.
OBSERVER photo by Shirley Pulawski
Meteorologist Mike Randall recently brought his magical puppeteering act to Barker Common.
Randall discovered his passion for puppeteering when he was 7 years old and was hospitalized for three months after a car accident. To keep him busy, his grandmother gave him seven Disney character-themed puppets. From then on, he asked for puppets as birthday and Christmas gifts and creatively made puppets from any materials he could find and practiced developing his ventriloquism techniques.
The act was held as part of the Picnic in the Park series sponsored by the department and was open to the public in addition to children enrolled in the youth program. Picnic in the Park has been held on consecutive Wednesdays from noon to 1 p.m. since July 11 in Barker Common. The aim of the program is to provide a regular event schedule in which both parents and children are encouraged to participate. Playground attendants escort children from five locations around the village down to Barker Common to enjoy an age-appropriate program and lunch with family members.
The final Picnic in the Park will be held today, but in Russell Joy Park for the annual field day. This event features a dodgeball match between the children and the program counselors. The youth involved in the program are also encouraged to wear the tie-dyed shirts they made together on a previous day in the program.
Jack Swartz, Director of Parks and Recreation, said the youth recreation program has been very successful this year.
Swartz said, "We've only had to cancel one event due to bad weather. With the heat, it's tough but we've been trying to do things in the shade and encouraging parents to send water along with their kids." Swartz said the youth program has 245 children registered and has received donations from Walmart, Pizza Hut, McDonald's and other sponsors.
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