For decades, the character Mr. McFeely has been known to children watching the classic television show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" by his catchphrase: "Speedy delivery!"
On June 16-17, David Newell, the actor who played the friendly neighborhood delivery man for 40 years before Fred Rogers' death in 2003, will make a series of appearances as Mr. McFeely in Rochester in a visit arranged by KSMQ Public Television. The events include an open house scheduled at Christ Lutheran Church from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 16.
"We thought it would be a good connecting event for our church to connect with other people and also the community," said the Rev. Scott Schilbe, adding that he thinks the event will bring nostalgia for people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who grew up watching Rogers' show.
The open house will include music, food, games, prizes, educational activities. If weather permits, classic episodes of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" will be projected on the side of the building.
Newell, 71, has been making public appearances as Mr. McFeely since the 1960s, but in recent years, as the show airs much less frequently on television (KSMQ in southeastern Minnesota has not aired the show since 2002, for example, although episodes are available online ), his
appearances have been an effort to keep the spirit of the show alive.
"You learn so much about children and families when you go out, and you see the reaction they have to the program," said Newell, who in addition to playing Mr. McFeely worked behind the scenes on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" as an associate producer and production coordinator. Most recently he has been in charge of public relations for Family Communications, a nonprofit media production company Rogers founded in 1971.
"He was such a wise man, and he was the real thing," Newell said. "He wasn't a gimmick at all. He really cared about families and young children and wanted to spread positive information."
As part of Newell's visit to Rochester, sweaters will be collected for the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Sweater Drive, an effort that Newell said has gathered four million sweaters over the years. Sweater donations can be brought to Christ Lutheran Church, and Newell will deliver them to the Salvation Army while he is in Rochester.
In the meantime, Newell was recently the subject of a documentary, "Speedy Delivery," which will air at 1 p.m. Sunday on KSMQ. Family Communications will also soon be renamed Fred Rogers Productions, he said, as it develops a new animated show called "Daniel's Neighborhood" starring Daniel the Tiger, a puppet from "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
"It's still in the early stages," Newell said. "Nothing has been announced, and we're hoping to get an OK on everything and we hope it will come to pass and carry on Fred's legacy."
Could there be a friendly neighborhood delivery man on the show?