Curious George Goes to Vermont

Josie Leavitt - May 11, 2015

He arrived in a trunk, a very large trunk. On Saturday there were about 20 little ones eagerly awaiting his arrival. These Curious George fans did not know that Curious George wasn’t real, they really believed him to be a living thing. Usually, there are one or two small kids who find the reality of a six-foot high monkey to be utterly terrifying, but luckily we were spared that this time. Only one older kid tried to spoil the surprise and shouted, “He’s just a guy in a costume.”
Well actually, he, on this day, was a woman. A very good friend of the store eagerly volunteered to beIMG_4403 George for us. She braved the body pod, the furred feet and the round head fabric head that was so big and heavy, at one point she was in peril of toppling over on her chine when she knelt down to high-five shy kids who had their little hands up. Here’s the thing with character events: I always forget how much kids love these. The adrenaline was palpable when I announced that George would be joining us. These kids, especially the youngest in the bunch, truly believe that George is real and their friend, so to be able to meet him was almost more than some could bear. Children were literally wriggling with joy and flapping in excitement as George made his way down the aisle to the picture book section where the kids were waiting.
This event was brought to us by the Children’s Book Council partnering with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on an “Inspire Curiosity Event with Curious George” The beauty of this event was the support we got. The costume was arranged for us and, best of all, the shipping was taken care of by HMH. Because the costumes are so large, the trunk they come in requires special freight which costs upwards of $140. So, to save that much was wonderful. These savings allowed us to get juice boxes (something I always do at events for kids because they cut down on messy spills) and little cupcakes. The event kit for the event was full of wonderful things we could copy and give to the kids, as well as enough sticker sheets (with some glow in the dark stickers!) to give to all the children.
george signingThe key to successful character events, other than promotion, is to give the person in the costume as many breaks as possible so they don’t expire from heat and a lack of air. Really, no one can last more than 20 minutes in the costume and that makes it just about the right amount of time for all the kids to hug or high-five George or get their picture taken with him and then do a craft activity independently from George. Having an escort to guide him is also very helpful. Moving in these costumes isn’t easy, but our George was great, dancing around and then standing outside the store waving at passing cars. This might have been the funniest part, as cars packed with teenagers were waving and smiling, and truckers were blowing their horns. There was something so lovely about adults just smiling and being utterly surprised and delighted.
Finally, the real joy of an author-less event is not worrying about having enough books (we had a good cache of Curious George books) or if attendance will be sparse. Of course, you always want to have a packed event, but the pressure of not having to worry about disappointing a real person does make the event more enjoyable. In the end I think really, seeing 25 kids hugging George was worth it, and even our friend, sweltering in pounds of fabric, agreed.

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