The voice of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch made his final Pittsburgh appearance on Friday, May 11 in honor of his ‘Caroll Spinney Day’ commemoration at the Carnegie Science Center

By: Nick Eustis

For nearly 50 years, the lovable characters of the classic children’s show, “Sesame Street,” have been welcomed into American living rooms, teaching and entertaining us through the TV screen. The show’s numerous puppet characters, created by the legendary Jim Henson, have helped nurture generation after generation.

Two of the show’s most recognizable and polarizing characters — the lovable, bright yellow feathered child-like Big Bird and the trash-can living, grump Oscar the Grouch — share a common bond. They’re both voiced by puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who this month, made his final public appearance in Pittsburgh.

Caroll Spinney during his ‘Carol Spinney Day’ commemoration ceremony on Friday, May 11. Photo by Nick Eustis

Spinney spent the weekend of May 11 to 13 at the Carnegie Science Center hosting “An Afternoon With Caroll Spinney,” which included a screening of the 1985 film, “Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird,” as well as a Q&A session. Earlier that weekend, Spinney was also given a very special honor by Henry Buhl Jr. co-directors, Ron Baillie and Ann Metzger.

“To recognize your impact and years of service, let me present this proclamation from Mayor Bill Peduto naming today, May 11, Caroll Spinney Day in Pittsburgh,” said Metzger during the ceremony.

“We at the Science Center are absolutely thrilled to be able to celebrate [Spinney’s] impact,” said Baillie. “Caroll brought these captivating characters to life, teaching kids the alphabet, their numbers, and many valuable life lessons.”

Spinney got his start on “Sesame Street” after meeting creator Jim Henson at a Puppeteers of America festival in 1969. Henson was impressed by Spinney’s performance at the event and asked him if he’d like to “talk about The Muppets,” according to Spinney.  Later that year, Spinney would join Henson’s “Muppeteers” and the cast of “Sesame Street.” He has continued to star as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to this day.

His work has spurned over five decades, earning Spinney a number of accolades including four Daytime Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, named a ‘Living Legend’ by the Library of Congress, and in 2006, he was honored with a National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Lifetime Achievement Award.

After accepting a ‘Caroll Spinney Day’ proclamation from Mayor Bill Peduto, the 84-year-old reflected on just how lucky he has been.

“I guess I’m kind of lucky that I can be this age and still play a kid,” Spinney said.