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“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” — Mr. Rogers documentary coming to municipal building auditorium September 16

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  By all accounts, Fred Rogers was an American treasure and a hero to children who grew up watching “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” on television, which first aired in 1968.

The documentary about Fred Rogers, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” will be shown at the Colfax Municipal Building auditorium on Sunday, September 16.

The showing of the movie is sponsored by the Colfax Public Library and will be hosted by the Colfax Municipal Building Restoration Group.

“Who doesn’t remember Mr. Rogers! He was such a vital part of my growing up years. He had a way of putting things so that they stuck with us,” said Troy Knutson, events coordinator for CMBRG.

“Every kid from the 70s and 80s couldn’t wait to learn with Mr. Rogers,” he said.

The final episode of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” aired August 31, 2001.

Fred Rogers was born in 1928 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and died February 27, 2003, at his home in Pittsburgh.

Rogers earned a bachelor’s degree in music composition from Rollins College in Florida in 1951 and married another Rollins graduate, Joanne Byrd, in 1952.

One of the first television programs Fred Rogers produced was “The Children’s Corner,” a daily live program with music and puppets, that aired in 1953 in Pittsburgh on the first community-sponsored educational television station in the United States.

“The Children’s Corner” featured some of the regulars that eventually appeared on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” such as Daniel Striped Tiger and X the Owl.

Rogers attended the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Child Development. In 1963 he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

“I was so thrilled when I heard that there was going to be a documentary made on (Mr. Rogers). I knew right away that we should show it at our theater (in the municipal building),” Knutson said.

The documentary genre has been popular at commercial movie theaters this past summer.

“I am hoping to once again branch out and try to connect with another age group of people,” Knutson said.

So far this year, the municipal building auditorium has been the venue for a variety of shows, including The Looney Lutherans, The Britins (Beatles tribute band), Herrick & Friends, The Stringsmiths, The Ottersons’ Bluegrass Round-up Band, performances of “Blackbeard the Pirate” produced by the Missoula Children’s Theatre, and a “Truth Be Told” event earlier in the year for Valentine’s Day.

The Colfax Public Library is planning a Halloween Party October 27 in the afternoon at the municipal building, and a Halloween movie will be shown in the auditorium during the evening.

Poppa Bear Norton, featuring Zack Norton and Colfax native Bronson Bergeson, will be performing in the municipal building auditorium October 28.

“We want to hold events that will be of interest to many different groups. I am always open for suggestions of types of events to look into,” Knutson said.

The next big project will be an elevator to make the municipal building handicapped accessible.

CMBRG, in conjunction with the Colfax Public Library Board, contracted with Cedar Corporation for a set of rough draft blue prints for the elevator.

The plan is to build an addition for the elevator at the back of the building to cover all three floors. The addition will include bathrooms on all three levels as well.

The initial rough estimate for the elevator addition is $600,000.

“The addition would give easy access to all three levels of the building. Our next step is to come up with a plan for raising the funds,” Knutson said.

“Grants will be our best bet. If anyone has experience in grant writing and would like to help us out, that would be wonderful,” he said.

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” will be shown at 2 p.m. Sunday, September 16, in the Colfax Municipal Building Auditorium.

Admission to the Mr. Rogers documentary is free, although CMBRG would be delighted to accept donations to go toward the elevator fund.

Concessions will be provided by the Colfax Commercial Club. 

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