Maybe you were 4 or 5. Maybe you were 34 or 35. But think back now, if you will, to the very first time you spied a marionette, either on television or a stage or at a local park.
Were you mystified? Delighted? Did it seem as though the brightly hued doll shimmied and leapt under its own power, before you detected the oh-so-thin strings operating the magical being?
Many Southern Californian kids had that first wave of wonder at the famous Bob Baker Marionette Theater. The historical venue, billed as "the largest and oldest ongoing puppet theater in the United States," was founded in 1963 by its namesake, a true puppeteering legend.
Mr. Baker passed away in 2014, but the enchanted, downtown-close landmark will live on as a non-profit organization. To celebrate the specialness of a place where so many local kids can name as the spot where they enjoyed their first theatrical experience, and to raise a cup of ice cream to the future, the theater is hosting Bob Baker Days 2017.
The two-day celebration dances and capers on Saturday, Feb. 25 and Sunday, Feb. 26.
This is the 3rd annual remembrance of the whimsical puppet palace Mr. Baker built, and, of course, "round-the-clock" puppet shows, a carnival, and the aforementioned ice cream will be part of the revelries.
The carnival and alfresco doings are on Saturday, while Sunday will be an indoor lark, with a "rare and intimate discussion" involving "some of the living legends" of the theater and a birthday party in honor of Mr. Baker and the charming institution he so lovingly built.
A silent auction, a performance by Tom Kenny (yay, Spongebob Squarepants!) and The Hi-Seas, a Sunday breakfast, and more merry outlandishment, of the sweetest sort, are on the extensive schedule.
Did you first see a marionette at the Bob Baker, back on a school field trip, back in the 1970s? Did you only just discover the theater when the New York Times lavished love upon it a few years back, and brought it to even wider reverence?
Either way, you, as a marionette maven, a puppet person, and a devotee of those vital qualities that build a city's story, have a stake in the Bob Baker Marionette Theater's days yet to come.
Get to know this laugh-loving, ice cream-eating, zingy-strings attached community at any of the activities over the final two weekend days in February.