By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
Nearly 100 youngsters, parents, grandparents and other library patrons enjoyed an hour-long puppet show last week in Lewisburg where the summer reading program comes to a close Thursday.
"If you can read, you can do anything," according to Ed and Robin May, the proprietors and performers of Runaway Puppet Theater who told the story of Rip Van Winkle in Marshall County's Memorial Library on the north side of Rock Creek Park.
Just like the Mays and their advocacy of books and literacy, Ze~ Shawn Swaggerty's grandmother reports that the 4-year-old boy's mother, Zeldra Swaggerty of Coleman Street, "has been reading to him since day one;" the day he was born. Zeldra, a Centerstone case manager, will be celebrating her son's birthday late next month.
"It was fun," Ze~ Shawn said, according to Corley. "I thought it was outstanding and I always said if the children of Lewisburg had a puppet show every Saturday, it would be nice."
Courtney Fellers of Chapel Hill took her three sons, Ben, Sam and Drew, to the puppet show.
Ben, 7, a rising second grader "thought the puppets were hilarious," Fellers said. Sam, 3, "was quite captivated and he's not normally one to sit still for something like that." As for Drew, 1, she said, "He was very entertained," but after a little while her younger son entered his own dream world.
Fellers has taken the boys to another library program. It was during the first week of the summer reading program and showcased a woman who sang and danced.
"She was really cute, but my boys much preferred the puppets," Fellers said.
Told that WSMV TV's Snowbird will be the featured guest this week, Fellers replied that she would "absolutely" take the boys to see the big penguin that forecasts inclement weather on Channel 4, Nashville.
Snowbird is scheduled to be in the library on Old Farmington Road at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 28, the last day of the summer reading program.
"This is our first summer to go to the library programs," Fellers said. "We use the library a lot," and it would be "awesome" if the county helped Chapel Hill start a library in the Community Center on West Depot Street in the north Marshall County town.
Library Director Jan Allen counted more than 50 children at the June 14 program when Mr. History spoke to the children. Allen concludes there were more than 75 attending when Derek Cameron assumed his alter ego for that program.
Runaway Puppet Theater also performed here last year. The Mays present timeless tales with a twist to entertain and get children interested in reading.
Their first story was about the Sandman who helps people "drift to sleep and wander through the world of dreams," the Mays explain on their Web site. The next story is told by the puppet named Sandman who introduced Rip Van Winkle to the children. During a chance encounter with woodland folks, Rip falls asleep for 20 years and the tale tells about the changes he finds in his little town.
Leah Eguia of Acorn Drive took her four children to the library last Thursday.
Saith, the 10-year-old daughter of Jose and Leah Eguia, scuffed her knee on the sidewalk on the way into the library. The librarian applied a bandage to the scuff.
Soon thereafter, Leah's children were enjoying "a real good puppet show," she said. "They did a good job of hiding the sticks to control the puppets and the voices were real good. The kids thought it was funny. I thought it was pretty close to Sesame Street."
The children "really liked the rain cloud and that it rained on the audience," Leah said. "I think they had a water gun. I think my 10-year-old figured that out, but the little ones didn't know. Yeah, they thought it was rain."
Ed May has been a professional puppeteer for 20 years. He's performed in feature films, TV series, commercials, and videos, including work for The Jim Henson Co. Robin May has been a touring puppeteer for 16 years, performing at venues including National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the Tribecca Performing Arts Center in New York City.