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 mans face and far more energy than the Easter Bunny was whirling around them,
laughing and singing. The new figure wasnt 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 isnt the first that this root
vegetable and member of the parsley family has stolen.
The Carrot Man is Dover resident Kit Stewart. The character first
appeared at Kits 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 Kits 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
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 arenas including the Spectrum and Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky and
they were the first live act in Veterans 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. "Wont Find
Better Than Me" made it to number three on the charts. Two others, "Sea of
Love" and "Lets Get Lost On A Country Road" were top forty hits as
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 didnt 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 its a testament to Kits 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 Kits style and his arrangements of the songs that they
know got them tapping their feet and singing along. Last year he saw a seniors
variety show at the Delaware State Fair and the idea for the television program was born.
Cable television shows arent 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 hes doing. He also needed a lot of acts.
After playing at most of the senior centers in Delawares 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 Kits show.
Well on his way to becoming a television producer Carrot Man found
himself facing the dilemma that most producers eventually face. They cant 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 wasnt up to the task. There were
technical problems and although the acts were recorded the result didnt 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 arent enough so Kit is seeking others but every
business that sells to the public knows that they cant neglect the AARP crowd and
with four shows now in the can The Young At Heart Show may be over the hump. Kits
challenge now is to produce a better show. His budget is barely adequate and the lack of
funds is apparent in the shows production value. Fortunately, cable TV viewers
dont look for network type production quality in locally produced programming but
they will expect improvement. Hes 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. Youd think that a man his age, hes
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 youre having as much fun as
the Carrot Man is why would you?
e-mail Rob Crimmins - firstname.lastname@example.org