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Barney's Birthday Bash to open Saturday afternoon at Sanford Center

When the house lights go down and the stage lights go on, all eyes will be focused on the arrival of the big purple dinosaur and his friends Baby Bop, BJ and Riff as they all celebrate Barney's Birthday Bash.

Barney and his friends are coming to Bemidji for two shows at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Sanford Center, 111 Event Center Dr. NE.

One of the performers, Alyssa Williams, is proud to be costumed as Baby Bop and dance onto the stage as she shares the excitement of the moment with the audience.

"I love performing and the magic of having a child touch your costume and really believe in a purple dinosaur and a green triceratops that wears pink shoes and carries a yellow blanket," said the 25-year-old Eden Prairie native. "Seeing all the children so happy and full of smiles makes me happy too."

Williams started her college career in early childhood development but put those plans on hold for a while. She made the decision to pursue a childhood dream of being on stage before an audience and letting her own special persona spring forth. After two years on the circuit, Williams has already performed in "Holiday on Ice Spectacular" and "Santa is Coming for Christmas" in Reno, Nev., and spent the past year as Baby Bop in VEE Corporation's family-friendly shows.

A Minnesota-based company, VEE Corporation and its big shows like Sesame Street Live and Barney's Birthday Bash have played to audiences all over the world. Barney and the gang will cover the continental United States and Canada on this present tour.

"The greatest challenge I have in traveling is staying in shape," said Williams. "We all need to drink a lot of water, eat healthy and seek out gyms for some cardio work like treadmills. I love traveling and seeing the different scenery across the country; hearing country music and Nashville is a blast."

Cyrus Pansch, group sales manager at Sanford said there will be birthday parties in suites during the show.

"They're great rooms because you don't have to worry about keeping the kids corralled, and there's always a place to keep the baby and change diapers in a private setting," he said. "The catering service at the Sanford can supply refreshments, so another concern is checked off."

There are a few dino seats at $50 each left for both performances: front row seats and a pre-show meet and greet with Barney. The $15 and $20 seats may be bought in advance by calling the box office at the Sanford, 441-4032 and tickets will be sold at the door. For a preview of the characters, visit

One final piece of advice from Williams is, "Even when things get hard, never give up and always follow your dreams!"