Thousands attend PBS launch event for 24-hour children’s network

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Maive, PBS KIDS festival attendee, does arts and crafts in the Cronkite First Amendment Forum.(Nicole Neri/DD)

Quasar, Arizona PBS KIDS Festival attendee, cuts plates in the arts and crafts section of the Cronkite First Amendment Forum. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Children pose in front of a green screen in the Cronkite Newsroom. (Nicole Neri/DD)

"Miss K." and The Cat in the Hat begin storytime for the children in Cronkite room 256. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Curious George poses for photos with children on the sixth floor or Cronkite. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Children played and posed for photo ops in a Daniel Tiger-themed trolley with sliding windows. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Daniel Tiger stays in character while stepping into the service elevator to go on his break. (Nicole Neri/DD)

A cardboard cutout of Bob The Builder, along with other PBS KIDS characters, was moved outside after creating a traffic jam in the Cronkite building. (Nicole Neri/DD)

Arizona PBS kicked off its first 24-hour children’s network on Monday with a launch festival in the Walter Cronkite School that was attended by an estimated few thousand, according to the school. Children met PBS KIDS characters, did crafts, listened to stories and experienced the Cronkite News studio.

Mark Lodato, associate general manager of innovation and design at the Cronkite School, said that PBS and Cronkite wanted to mark the addition of the channel and “invite a lot of our viewers down here to experience PBS KIDS.”

The channel is meant to fill the need for “quality educational content” after PBS KIDS signs off for the day, which is especially helpful for children’s hospitals and pediatric wings, said Nancy Southgate, associate general manager of content at PBS.

“It’s just a way to serve the community better than we are right now,” Southgate said. “It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a really long time.”

Beth Nakamura, head coordinator of the Arizona PBS KIDS festival, said that the huge turnout was completely unexpected. An initial 9,100 people registered to attend the event, though the turnout was not that high.

“We didn’t think we were going to get the numbers,” Nakamura said. “We were proven wrong very quickly.”

After attracting nearly 10,000 attendants, the festival has become the largest event ever hosted in the Cronkite School. Nakamura said the biggest draw for the children was the appearance of PBS KIDS characters Clifford, Curious George, Super Why, and Daniel Tiger.

“Kids were literally thrilled. Being able to do that for them and to see really happy kids and really patient parents… I think that was why it was a success,” Nakamura said. “At the end of the day, if we are making kids happy and reminding them why it’s not just the character, it’s the experience, they’re gonna have a good time.”

Due to the large turnout of children who attended, the volunteers had to create an unplanned event, jokingly referred to as “Read the Teleprompter,” allowing children to sit on the newsdesk and read lines while waiting to meet characters or interact with the green screen.

Correction: January 17, 2017

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated 9,100 people attended the event. While 9,100 people registered to attend the event, the actual turnout was less than that.

Contact the reporter at Nicole.Neri@asu.edu.

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