One of the benefits of being fortunate enough to work here at the APRL is that every once in a while an opportunity comes along to attend an event that is truly unique to the world of philately. One such opportunity came recently with the chance to attend the Mister Rogers first day ceremony this past Friday, March 23, at the WQED-TV PBS Studios in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The ceremony was held in the Fred Rogers Studio, formerly known as Studio A, the home of the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood television show for over 50 years since 1970. The small studio in my memory always seemed so large on television, much like my childhood imagination when watching the show, but as dignitaries, the philatelic press and other interested collectors gathered for the ceremony it was truly a testament to the man who daily sang “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” that the dedication of this stamp in his honor brought so many different types of people together, both young or old, to share in the memory of his great gift.
The ceremony was presided over by Rick Sebak, a producer with WQED, and included remarks from the Postmaster General Megan Brennan and members of the Fred Rogers Company and Foundation as well as introductions of those who worked on the groundbreaking children’s show over the years. When the well-deserved stamp design was finally unveiled, with the aid of children no less, the magnitude of the event was felt by all in attendance with equal measures of pride and humility, just as the man himself. But the celebration of the man and the stamp issued in his memory didn’t end there.
The following day at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania a special children’s event was held to re-dedicate the stamp, only this time the unofficial master of ceremonies was none other than Mister McFeely (David Newell), Mister Rogers’ longtime “speedy” deliveryman. In the brief re-dedication ceremony that began the day and to the shouts of “Speedy Delivery!” from the over 300 children and “adult” children in attendance, Mister McFeely delivered and unveiled the new stamp.
The rest of the event was filled with opportunities for the children in attendance to meet the day’s special guest in person, design their own stamps and cachets, as well as to mail their own letters using the Postal Service’s latest issue. The two days of events honoring everybody’s favorite television neighbor were a fitting tribute to his enduring impact on generations of children and a reminder of the simple joy that a stamp can bring to the young and the young at heart, the collector and the non-collector alike.