Updated: Sep 20, 2022
Belmont hosted a beloved childhood favorite in another well-attended chapel this week.
Mike Nawrocki, co-creator of the “VeggieTales” animated series and voice actor behind Larry the Cucumber, gave his annual chapel Friday, greeting students in his instantly recognizable Larry the Cucumber voice: “Hello, Belmont Bruins!”
This is the first time in seven years that Nawrocki spoke not only as a guest, but as a Belmont dad.
“This is the first year I get to do this as an official Belmont parent,” said Nawrocki, in his normal voice, onstage in front of an enthusiastic crowd.
“My daughter is in the law school, so I’ve been an honorary Belmont family member all these years, but now I’m an official blood relative, so it’s so exciting for me to be here.”
Nawrocki began speaking at Belmont in 2014, sharing the story of his own spiritual journey and the creation of the cartoon, which was first released to VHS in 1993.
Nawrocki asked if there was a birthday in the crowd. As the back section of the theater applauded, Nawrocki asked the birthday girl — Cherish — to come to the stage. Nawrocki gifted her an autograph and all eight books from his new children’s series, “The Dead Sea Squirrels,” first published in 2019.
From there, veterans of the event — some Belmont students attend Nawrocki’s chapel multiple times in their four years at the university — will recognize that the talk is given in the structure of a “VeggieTales” episode, with a “countertop” discussion followed by a story.
Presenting his opening “countertop” scene with clips from the 2014 special “Veggies in Space,” Nawrocki spoke about his journey to ministry and meeting Phil Vischer, co-creator of “VeggieTales” and the voice of Bob the Tomato.
Vischer is also set to drop by Belmont Sept. 8 for his own chapel talk: “Bob the Tomato on Racial Justice.”
Nawrocki followed the first part of his story by playing a crowd favorite, the manatee-themed ballad “Endangered Love,” as a Silly Song interlude.
He continued by sharing his decision to set aside his path to medical school and the Peace Corps in order to continue creating VeggieTales. After ending the closing “countertop” scene with clips from “Veggies in Space,” Nawrocki gave advice to the audience.
“Here’s my encouragement to you: make your plans, work hard, study hard, but always be open to how God can use you in ways you never imagined for such a time as this,” Nawrocki said.
Childhood fans of “VeggieTales” can look forward to new episodes soon, as well as an in-production TV series based on Nawrocki’s “The Dead Sea Squirrels.”
PHOTO: Mike Nawrocki takes the stage at the Massey Performing Arts Center in front of a packed audience. Belmont Vision / Anna D’Amico
This article was written by Ronae Briley and Tiara McCauley.