Now Or Never

Can you help find the missing pieces from the Fred Penner's Place set?

The TV show, Fred Penner's Place was cancelled in 1997. Then pieces of the set went missing. Now, you can help us find them.
Fred Penner with Penelope on the set of Fred Penner's Place. (CBC)
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The beloved children's entertainer famous for singing "The Cat Came Back" is hoping some pieces from the set of his TV show will come back -- with your help.

Fred Penner hosted his eponymous TV show, Fred Penner's Place, on CBC from 1985 to 1997. He was invited to create the show as a replacement for The Friendly Giant

His aim was to educate children through music, nature and storytelling.

Each episode of the show opened with Penner bounding across a beach and some fields, then crawling into a clearing via a hollowed out log.

Fred Penner emerges from the famous log of the Fred Penner's Place set. (Courtesy Fred Penner)

The natural setting was a key component of the show that was inspired by Penner's own backyard growing up. 

"In the corner of our yard we had this very big, full bush," said Penner.

"I would often crawl underneath this bush, under the branches. That would be a calm place for me to listen to the sounds of the world go by."

In 1997, after a 12-year run, Fred Penner's Place ended after a change of management in children's programming at the CBC.

"I arrived at the studio in the morning and was told that the series was cancelled,"  said Penner.

"It was pulled off the air. There were no re-runs — which I'm still somewhat surprised at, because of the popularity that it's maintained."

Along with the show's cancellation, most of the pieces from the set also went missing. According to former show director Phil Kusie, some of the pieces of the Winnipeg set ended up at a tree farm outside of Winnipeg. 

The Fred Penner's Place set looked like a real forest but was constructed of synthetic material. (CBC)

"It was 20 years ago and the gentleman that owned that property, Jeff Gidney passed away in 2012," said Kusie.

"I understand the property was sold. Whether they left the set there as part of the property or not, I'm not sure."

That set felt like a safe and magical place for a lot of Canadian kids. It would be amazing to know where it ended up.- Megan McChesney , CBC Kids

Kusie said there were rumours that some pieces ended up in an after-hours Caribbean club in Winnipeg, which became the Braemar Bakery and is now a gym.

This is the building in Winnipeg where some pieces of the Fred Penner's Place set ended up. (Google maps)

Fred Penner said he would be delighted to find his old TV show set.

"I would love for anybody who has anything from that series, to come forward. It was my life," he explained.

"For a lot of time, I crawled through that log. It gave me such an incredible opportunity on so many levels, to learn how to present gentle, positive, engaging ideas and stories, thoughts and feelings with the audience."

Megan McChesney, a senior digital producer with CBC Kids, is also keen to see the pieces of the set resurface.

"It would be nice to find those set pieces because they're such a huge part of the legacy of Fred Penner's Place. That set felt like a safe and magical place for a lot of Canadian kids. It would be amazing to know where it ended up."

For our episode all about solving personal mysteries, Ify Chiwetelu wanted to help Penner in his search for his missing set. She reunited him with Phil Kusie and they drove for hours through farmers' fields, looking for the place that may have housed pieces from the set.

Phil Kusie, the former show director, and Fred Penner peer out at the Manitoba prairie. (CBC/Ify Chiwetelu)

Sadly, aside from some hopeful leads, they came up empty-handed.

So we need your help: If you know where any of the pieces from the Fred Penner's Place set might be — we're talking logs, tree trunks or a guitar cave that look authentic but are actually made of Styrofoam and wire — please get in touch. 

Contact us at us at nowornever@cbc.ca or leave a message at 1-844-375-5669. Let's make Fred Penner jump for joy!

Fred Penner jumps for joy at the end of a Fred Penner's Place episode. (CBC)

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