Downtown Tampa felt just a little bit more "neighborly" Thursday evening, as Tampa Theatre hosted a special early showing and block party in honor of a new documentary about the one and only 'Mr. Rogers.'
- "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" opening in limited release
- Block party celebrated legacy of Fred Rogers, landmark children's show
- REVIEW: 'Won't You Be My Neighbor?' ★★★★★
"Won't You Be My Neighbor?" from Focus Features opens in limited release across the U.S. on June 15.
Tampa Theatre will be one of the theaters showing the documentary in its first week of release, and held a block party in downtown Tampa to celebrate.
"People's good feelings, warm feelings still about Mr. Rogers has really driven this to something beyond our wildest expectations," said Tampa Theatre's James DeFord.
From chalk drawings of some of Mr. Rogers's favorite "friends" to a puppet show celebrating his legacy, friendliness flourished among the neighbors out for the party.
"If I were to pull a Mr. Rogers right here, I'd say to you 'There's no one else like you," said fan Ellery Aguayo. "And you know what? I like you just the way you are."
Puppeteer Jerry Bickel said Fred Rogers, who starred in all 895 episodes of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" on public television from 1968 to 2001, understood that simple things, like cloth puppets, can have a significant impact.
"He talked about how we should take care of each other, how we should feel good towards each other and he's very relevant every day right now when you turn on the TV," Bickel explained. "Everyone needs to think about each other."
Artist Marty Kledzik uses a quote from Rogers -- "Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered one kind word to another person?" -- as artistic inspiration.
"It's very appropriate for today," Kledzik said. "For communities to come together."
"I would say now more than ever, yeah, the world needs as much 'Mr. Rogers' as we can get," DeFord said.