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Feature article, "14 Carrot Gold",  in the January 2000 issue of Delaware Today Magazine - 2001 Robert Crimmins and Today Media, Inc.

(This version is my final draft and it differs slightly from the one that appeared in the magazine.)

    When the Easter Bunny rode into the Dover Mall last April in a pony drawn cart the children were enthralled. He waved and nodded his large head and demonstrated surprise by raising his forelegs or putting his paw over his mouth. Little ones stared into the fixed, plastic eyes as they processed the image before them. Some reached behind them for their mothers as the bunny approached but most sensed that he was a benign although inscrutable creature. They studied the scene before them and divined the truth that their parents and the other grownups were putting on a show but there had to be at least some confusion in the minds of those in and around toddling age. When Carrot Man burst on the scene their questions were answered.
    A nine-foot tall, bright orange, caped carrot with human arms and legs, a man’s face and far more energy than the Easter Bunny was whirling around them, laughing and singing. The new figure wasn’t at all confusing. With his face and hands clearly visible and his voice booming there was no doubt that this was a man in a carrot suit. Even the children most perplexed by the mute bunny now knew that the grownups were having fun. Carrot Man became the show and it isn’t the first that this root vegetable and member of the parsley family has stolen.

Kit Stewart

    The Carrot Man is Dover resident Kit Stewart. The character first appeared at Kit’s produce stand, "The Gay Street Vendor" on Gay Street in West Chester along with other street performers. Eventually it became the "Carrot Man Show" and included Kit’s children as a strawberry and a banana. (Coaxing them to eat their vegetables must have been fun.) Through the years the show, that includes original songs and choreographed vegetable dances, could be seen at malls, conventions and state fairs.
    Kit still performs as Carrot Man but his current career and the one that he left to start his produce business are even more interesting.
    In 1961 after leaving Special Services, the entertainment branch of the U.S. Navy, he founded a rock and roll band, "The Kit Kats". They were quite successful and remained together until 1973 playing clubs up and down the east coast and in major arena’s including the Spectrum and Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky and they were the first live act in Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia where they played in front of 55,000 people. The four Kit Kats became "New Hope" and under those two names the band recorded three albums and twenty-two singles. "Won’t Find Better Than Me" made it to number three on the charts. Two others, "Sea of Love" and "Let’s Get Lost On A Country Road" were top forty hits as well.
    When the band broke up Kit joined Campus Booking Agency in Philadelphia to manage bands and prepare them for concerts and recording. Managing rock and roll bands in the seventies included problems that Kit didn’t enjoy solving. He says, "Like the husband, the manager is the last to know," so he temporarily left show business.
    Twelve years is well beyond the normal life expectancy of rock and roll bands and it’s a testament to Kit’s determination that the same four musicians stayed together for so long. His current undertaking, a weekly cable television program, could only succeed with a man like Kit in charge.
    He came to Dover three years ago and discovered that his one-man song and dance show played well at the many senior centers in Kent and Sussex Counties. The older men and women enjoyed Kit’s style and his arrangements of the songs that they know got them tapping their feet and singing along. Last year he saw a senior’s variety show at the Delaware State Fair and the idea for the television program was born.
    Cable television shows aren’t necessarily all that hard to produce. Cooking shows and do-it-yourself arts and crafts programs can be done with one camera in a normal kitchen or basement studio but the variety show format is a different story. For that Kit needed a stage, serious lighting, at least two cameras, sound equipment, a couple thousand pounds of miscellaneous cable and gear and a director who knows what he’s doing. He also needed a lot of acts.
    After playing at most of the senior centers in Delaware’s lower two counties Kit knew that there was plenty of talent and willing performers. In his travels he met seniors who sang and danced and played everything from pianos to nose flutes. His initial work for the show included collecting a list of acts who wanted to be on TV and coming up with a name for the show. The list grew and the meaningful, if unoriginal, name for the show became "Young At Heart".
    With those preliminaries out of the way Kit talked to the director of the Modern Maturity Center in Dover and was granted permission to use the fairly small stage at this otherwise outstanding facility. Many senior centers on Delmarva are designed to accommodate performances and most are willing to stage Kit’s show.
    Well on his way to becoming a television producer Carrot Man found himself facing the dilemma that most producers eventually face. They can’t get sponsors without a pilot but they need money to produce a pilot. Kit had just enough money to shoot the first show but the crew he hired wasn’t up to the task. There were technical problems and although the acts were recorded the result didn’t represent what Kit had in mind. He managed to find two other producers who were willing take a chance on teaming up with him and, with their equipment and a professional crew the second show was made. Kit then put on his sales hat and spoke to business people with interests in the senior market.
    Wiley Farms, the huge nursery and market on Rt. 13 in Smyrna, signed up and so did the Dover Mall and both are interested in working with Kit and Young At Heart Productions on the show and other projects. The mall is planning wellness fairs and talent shows and Sarah Wiley is appearing in commercials on the Young At Heart Show that feature nutrition information and The Carrot Man.
    Two sponsors aren’t enough so Kit is seeking others but every business that sells to the public knows that they can’t neglect the AARP crowd and with four shows now in the can The Young At Heart Show may be over the hump. Kit’s challenge now is to produce a better show. His budget is barely adequate and the lack of funds is apparent in the show’s production value. Fortunately, cable TV viewers don’t look for network type production quality in locally produced programming but they will expect improvement. He’s learning very quickly and more sponsors are forthcoming so the shows should get better.
    From sailor to rock and roll star to produce vendor to produce to producer, Kit Stewart has really lived. You’d think that a man his age, he’s sixty, would be thinking about retirement and maybe he is but people who live the way he does never will retire in the conventional sense. When you’re having as much fun as the Carrot Man is why would you?

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