Hyde Park is the Wrong Neighborhood for Mr. Rogers

There I was, happily baking bread on Christmas Eve morning, listening to Chicago Public radio, when a “public service announcement” came on plugging this week’s Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive & Storytelling Festival! Hanni and I will be giving a presentation at that fest at 1 pm on Wednesday, December 31 — it was a kick to hear about it on air.

I smiled and listened, kneading and turning the loaf, folding in the bits of rosemary and sundried tomatoes that kept slipping away from the dough. It was a happy Christmas Eve scene. But then came the end of the public service announcement, the part where the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago’s Hyde Park was touted as the host.

Dude! That’s the wrong hood! The Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive & Storytelling Festival is actually taking place all this week at The Field Museum in Chicago. To be exact, it will be at the Field Museum’s Crown Family PlayLab.

The PlayLab is a special part of the Field Museum created especially for little kids. I had no idea the Field Museum had a special area for little ones – well, I mean not until Danny LaBrecque, the Coordinator of PlayLab Programs, contacted me last summer. He wanted to know if Hanni and I would be interested in participating in this year’s Sweater Drive. When he told me Mr. McFeely would be one of the other participating authors, I just had to say yes!

Every day on Mister Rogers’ neighborhood, Mister Rogers zips up his comfortable sweater, but not everyone has a sweater this winter. If you have an extra sweater, would you consider donating it to someone who might need it? This December 26th through the 31st The Field Museum’s Crown Family PlayLab will host the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive & Storytelling Festival. During this week families are encouraged to donate new to slightly used sweaters which will be delivered to a variety of Chicago area charities. After dropping off sweaters families are invited to celebrate the spirit of neighborhood care with a variety of storytellers, authors, artists, dancers and musicians featuring a visit with Mr. McFeely on the 30th. This event is free with basic admission into The Field Museum

Danny gave Hanni and me a private tour of the PlayLab at the field Museum earlier this month — what a cool place! Real artifacts and specimens the kids can touch and play with; kids can dig up dinosaur bones, grind corn in a pueblo, make music, play scientist, stomp on dinosaur footprints. In one area, kids are encouraged to put on an animal costume and crawl, growl, hop around. Exhibitions in PlayLab often coordinate with those in the more “adult” part of the Field Museum. If kids come to PlayLab first, they might better appreciate the more sophisticated displays in other areas of the museum.

PlayLab makes for a great rest area for families with little ones, too – family bathrooms, stroller parking, infant zones, and a staffed reception desk make it a comfortable place for little kids who need a break. While Hanni and I were there on our tour, a little boy who was lost was brought to the receptionist so his family could find him. He seemed scared, and the staff was so nice they calmed him down.

If you’re in the Chicago area and looking for something to do with your kids during the break between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I highly recommend the Field Museum’s Crown Family PlayLab. Especially this Wednesday, December 31 at 1 pm!

Wednesday, December 31
Beth Finke Children’s Author
NPR commentator Beth Finke is an award-winning author, teacher and journalist. She also happens to be blind. “Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound,” is Beth’s award-winning book about the love and trust between guide dogs and people who are blind. Come meet Beth Finke and Hanni, her guide dog for a reading of “Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound.”

The public service announcement ran more than once on Wednesday, and Danny and I made many frustrating calls to Chicago Public Radio that day to encourage them to make a speedy correction about the location of the sweater drive. But alas, it was Christmas Eve, and Chicago Public Radio is no Scrooge! They’d done the right thing, airing pre-programmed shows all day to allow local staff to spend time at home with their loved ones. No one answered the phones.

So if you want to come see Hanni and me at the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive & Storytelling Festival this year, make sure you go to the Field Museum. The Museum of Science and Industry is swell, but Hanni and I won’t be there!

PS: The “Savory Bread with Onion, Pancetta and Sundried Tomatoes” I brought to Flo’s yesterday was a hit. All that dough-slamming I did when the phone calls didn’t go through must have brought out the best of the yeast and gluten.

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2 Responses to “Hyde Park is the Wrong Neighborhood for Mr. Rogers”


  1. 1 Cheryl December 26, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    I hope that when Chicago Public Radio realizes that they made an error with their announcement that they’ll make twice as many correct announcements about Mr. Rogers Storytelling Festival. I’m sure Mr. McFeely will find the right museum. He is a retired mailman. It sounds like it’s going to be a very fun afternoon. I can attest that all the dough-slamming did help make a delicious bread. I enjoyed the bread and the company.

  2. 2 Beth December 27, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Cheryl, we think alike. When I talked to Danny at the PlayLab, I told him it was likely this would turn out to be a good thing: Chicago Public Radio may end up making twice as many correct announcements about Mister Rogers’ Sweater Drive at the FIELD Museum this week. And thank you for reassuring me about Mr. McFeeley – hadn’t dawned on me, but you’re right, of course he’ll find the right address!


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