Two towering New York City characters will be honored atop the Empire State Building when it shines in the gold and green of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to mark the 50th anniversary of “Sesame Street” on Nov. 10.
The groundbreaking children’s show, set on city sidewalks and in neighborhood shops, has helped shaped how New York sees itself—and how it is viewed across the country.
“‘Sesame Street’ is the first place that urban kids got to see their neighborhood and life reflected on screen,” said Anne del Castillo, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. “That’s something that we want to continue to support and celebrate as part of making sure that everyone is represented.”
The city declared Nov. 8 to be “Caroll Spinney Day,” in honor of the legendary puppeteer who portrayed the two characters for decade, from the show’s start in 1969. Spinney, 85, was accompanied by his wife, Debra, at a ceremonial lighting of a model Empire State in the building’s lobby.
“It means so much to us,” said Steve Youngwood, chief operating officer of Sesame Workshop. “For miles around, people will be able to look up and see a brilliant and heart-warming illustration of two New York landmarks.”
Youngwood, with the help of Big Bird, pulled a lever, giving onlookers a taste of what’s to come on Sunday.
Spinney, an author, illustrator, and lecturer, retired from puppeteering in 2015 when the work became too physically demanding. He continued to provide the voices of Big Bird and Oscar until last year.
“Carroll is a unique individual that has such an impact culturally, educationally that it seemed like the right thing to do at this time,” del Castillo said of dedicating the day to him. “He’s been a tremendous force building these incredible characters and reaching so many.”