The march to the Capitol set off from Lincoln Park shortly after 11 a.m., with the participants singing the “Sesame Street” theme song, and the Muppets’ “Mahna Mahna.” They were asked to keep to the sidewalk, but the hundreds of marchers soon spilled into the street, requiring a police escort. They chanted:
“Power to the puppets! We can save the Muppets!”
“Whose street? Sesame Street!”
“What do we want? Cookies! When do we want them? Now!”
“EL-MO! We won’t go!”
“I am the way I am — I’m an artist — because of ‘Sesame Street’ and PBS,” said Michael Montgomery, who came up from Orlando with puppet Eddie. “To even think that that could go away is sad, and I want to raise my support for it in any way that I can.”
“I used to work for Sesame Street, and not only did it change my life as a kid, it changed my life as an adult,” said Michael Schupbach, who came in from New York City with his puppet Malcolm. “I can speak for the people who work there, everyone there knows how important their job is, they know they’re reaching 17 million kids every day.”
Malcolm described himself as a distant cousin of Oscar the Grouch. “We’re friends on Facebook,” the furry green puppet said. “I believe we’ve endorsed each other on LinkedIn.”
Schupbach also brought an “Oven Mitt Romney” puppet — a green oven mitt with stern-looking eyes. “It’s not a political rally, so he’s staying quiet.”
“More than you can say for the real one,” quipped Montgomery.
“We’ve been telling everybody: This isn’t a march, it’s a support group,” said Montgomery, or maybe his puppet, Eddie — both of their mouths were moving. “Look at this — it’s all the same weirdos.”
Nearby, Ronny Wasserstrom of Playdate Puppets in New York was showing off his papier-mache Humpty Dumpty marionette to a group of children.
“He never listens to me!” said Wasserstrom to a little boy dressed as Elmo. “You know who he listens to? Kids.”
The kids helped Wasserstrom help his Humpty Dumpty puppet balance an egg on the puppet’s head.
“Does that look balanced? As balanced as the budget,” he said. “How are we gonna help this budget out? How about we fire Big Bird? No.”
Of Humpty Dumpty, he said, “we’re putting him back together again, we’re hoping to put the country back together again. PBS is our past but we also want it to be our future. I think we support PBS not only as a leg up on the future, but an egg up on the future.”
’It’s been an intense political season’
The rally was founded by Michael Bellavia, a Los Angeles animation executive, and Chris Mecham, an Idaho student, who came up with the same idea separately, and joined forces after meeting online. The event was unaffiliated with PBS.