Making new friends

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE Sesame Street characters Elmo, Cookie Monster and Katie, the newest character to the “Sesame Street/USO” traveling show, danced and sang their way into the hearts of children Monday afternoon at Minot Air Force Base.

The message through the well-known characters was to help military families deal with the challenges of moves they make quite often.

Tech. Sgt. Brent Reimers and his wife Sarah surprised their children by bringing them to the show Monday.

“They’re very excited,” said Sarah Reimers, as the family, including children Skylar, Hunter, Liberty, Justice and Kadynce, waited for the Sesame Street characters to arrive on the stage.

Prior to the 30-minute show, children were given free spinners, bandannas and other memorabilia.

Nicole McClendon, originally from Texas, is the USO tour manager for the Sesame Street/USO Experience for Military Families, the official name of the show.

She said the show is a collaboration of three groups: USO (United Service Organization) with headquarters in Arlington, Va., Sesame Street Workshop in New York and the Vee Corp. in Minneapolis.

“The three companies work together to produce the show,” McClendon said.

“We go to wherever we have military friends. This year we’re going to 69 bases in 32 states. The tour itself has been to 33 states and 11 countries,” she said.

The show has some very well known cast members Elmo, Cookie Monster, Grover and Rosita.

There’s also a special cast member.

“There’s a very special muppet named Katie,” McClendon said. “You’ll only meet Katie if you come to this show and what’s really special about her is she happens to be a military child herself.

“Right now she lives on Sesame Street and she finds out in the show that she’s about to move. Her family is about to PCS (or what is called permanent change of station) which is something that all of our military families go through sometimes up to 14 times before high school. So she’s a little nervous about that, a little sad and by hanging out with her friends Elmo and Cookie Monster (and others) they teach her some songs and dances. And there’s some tips about how to keep in touch with old friends and easy ways to make new friends at her new base,” McClendon said.

This is McClendon’s second year with the show.

“We did an international overseas tour last year to all of our military friends that are stationed overseas,” she said.

She said the tour itself has been running since 2008.

McClendon said the first version dealt more with deployments and in 2011, Katie joined the group and the focus of the show was shifted to deal with PCS and families moving.

The Sesame Street characters previously performed at the Minot base several years ago.

McClendon said the reception for the show is always wonderful. She said many of the kids will come into the show especially excited to see Elmo and Cookie Monster.

“But at the end of the show because Katie is up there on the stage and she’s somebody just like them, they relate to her and she ends up to be the star of the show,” McClendon said.

Right before the show, photos of the audience are taken and then posted on the show’s website at (www.uso.org/sesame).

The Sesame Street/USO shows continue today at 2 and 6 p.m., and are open to families with Minot AFB access.

From Minot AFB, the show goes to Malmstrom AFB in Montana.