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Puppets in the park

Free lunch program in Jerry Burrell Park offers free entertainment

Not only was there free food, but children were also dazzled by a puppet show in Jerry Burrell Park Tuesday, June 13, which lead to an excited group yearning to learn more about the puppets.

The Poppytown Puppets, a husband-and-wife team, performed in the park Tuesday during the free lunch program sponsored by Schenectady Inner City Ministry. About 100 free lunches were handed out that afternoon, according to Janet Mattis, SICM community outreach coordinator.

Martin Howard is the musician of the puppet show, and he plays his keyboards live, while Marilyn Schroeder, his wife, is the puppetmaster bringing all of the characters to life. All puppets are hand-made by Schroeder and take 80 to 100 hours to create.

I like the reaction of the children when they see the puppets and hear the music," said Schroeder. "Seeing my husband play live music is the first time some kids have ever seen a live performer."

Schroeder said an important element of the show is inspiring children creatively. She said when some children see her husband play live music, it lets them know they can do it too. She also encouraged children to create their own puppets from materials they have around the house.

Schroeder studied art and said she got into puppetry because she wanted her "paintings to talk" to her. She joined amateur groups, but they all had the same problem " the groups would fall apart. Wanting a stable puppet troupe, she decided to start making her own puppets and perform a show with her husband.

"They [Poppytown Puppets] came highly recommended and are good for young children," said the Rev. Phillip Grigsby, executive director of SICM.

SICM's summer lunch program's kick-off event was June 30, and the Poppytown Puppets were originally scheduled to perform then, but a tornado in Ottawa, Ohio, damaged their equipment. They were performing at a county fair and there was no warning before the tornado struck.

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