Station Mascots, Smaller Events Aid With Public Relations
By Anne Marshall Christner for the SAM Project
Station Mascots Began With Mrs. Bird
Mrs. Bird, a human-costumed character, made her local debut in 1969 as Big Bird’s (Sesame Street) mother. Originally designed and partly built by Artha Frickel and Beverly Potter, Mrs. Bird became a beloved prop for Channel Six, and later the other stations in Rocky Mountain PBS, for 28 years at a number of public appearances. She was joined by three additional bird mascots in 1971 – Amanda Suellen Ostrich, Olive Owl, and Wilber Weird Bird. Bird Dog, a fifth mascot was added in 1974.
The mascots appeared at a number of venues, both to promote children’s programming at PBS and to help raise funds. Volunteers helped to build and maintain the costumes, write skits and music, and wear the costumes in appearances at parades, shopping centers, and invitational events at places like the Denver Zoo. Nonprofit groups could engage the mascots for a $25 fee in the early 1970s, while shopping centers paid a minimum donation of $250 per appearance.
Because of their success, the birds attended the National Friends of Public Broadcasting Convention in New Orleans in the spring of 1972. Further evidence of their popularity was the fact that by 1974, there were three casts and two business managers to accommodate the high demand for the mascots, including a broader geographic reach.
A new costume for Mrs. Bird appeared in 1980 in time for the Denver Festival of Lights Parade, where she served as the Grand Marshal. In 1987, the mascots made appearances at the Special Olympics and Girl Scouts’ 75th birthday celebration. On 1989, they made 118 appearances at schools, hospitals, churches, and parades.
Over the years, the volunteer newsletter included calls for new scripts, performers, and refurbishing or replacement of costumes that had worn out. The costume for Mrs. Bird was moved to KRMJ in Grand Junction in 1997, and she has not appeared in the Denver area since then.
Clifford, the Big Red Dog came on line as a new costumed character in the early 2000s, appearing on the air during several auctions, and in 2001 at the Rocky Mountain PBS Kids Club Birthday Bash, the Montrose Regional Library and the Naturita Library. Clifford made it to a Kids Cooking Event hosted by Chef Eric Roeder at Micole Restaurant in 2002.
KRMA Participates in St. Patrick’s Day Parade
A KRMA float or other entry to Denver’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade generally promoted the spring auction. The 1971 float, designed and partially built by Beverly Potter, won first place.
Various station mascots – Mrs. Bird and the other Birds and Clifford the Big Red Dog – accompanied the float through the years. In 1981 and again in 1983 Super Six School News participants appeared with the KRMA float.
Channel Six Day at the Zoo
This article appeared in the Sixth Sense Newsletter dated November 1980 and is the first mention of Channel Six Day at the Zoo that could be found. It is not clear how long or often this event occurred.
At the first Day at the Zoo (Sept. 14, 1980), Channel Six included such attractions as a preview of the Six fall shows, a videotaping of a living Channel Six logo from a hot air balloon and guest appearances by Mr. McFeeley and the Purple Panda (portrayed by our own Nancy Brittain).
Tesseract, a popular rock band, kept spirits high. Making the day perfect, the Channel Six Birds greeted thousands of children and their parents at the main gate and were treated like famous celebrities, as well they should be!
There were 54,104 attendees that day – an all-time record for the Denver Zoo.
(Researcher found citations about a “Day at the Zoo” or Zoo Fest for 1980, 1989, 1991, and 1992.)
Station Tours Often Cater To Youth Groups
Station tours have been offered over the years to provide information and outreach to a wide array of groups and individuals. Generally, the tours have been guided by volunteers who have been trained to perform the task.
The minutes from a November 1987 Volunteer Board Meeting included a report from the Public Relations Committee that stated the general goal of station tours as “promoting and developing support for Channel Six through informative tours.” Committee members wanted to increase the number of tours in 1987-88, and to provide a rewarding experience for the tour guides. They accomplished the former through devoted outreach to a number of community groups and the latter by tightening up the job description for tour guides and providing them with a general information sheet to distribute to those on tour.
Volunteer Board Minutes from March 1988 reported that in 1987, more than 1,700 people in 124 groups toured the station. Groups included scout troops and groups from churches, schools, and senior organizations. There were 15-20 volunteers who served as tour guides, following suggestions in the Tour Guide Handbook.
In addition to groups scheduling dedicated tours, there have been times when the station was open to anyone who wanted to come in and take a tour. The Volunteer Vision reported in 1998 that station tours remained popular, and the volunteer newsletter continues to call for new volunteers to serve as tour guides.