Nicknamed "The Beatles for Babies," Australian band The Wiggles has entertained the preschool set for 21 years with catchy hits like "Hot Potato," "Rock-a-Bye Your Bear" and "Fruit Salad."
At the end of this year, original Wiggles Jeff Fatt (purple shirt), Greg Page (yellow) and Murray Cook (red) are calling it quits and will be replaced by new members who will continue to perform with remaining Wiggle Anthony Field (blue).
The original four's worldwide farewell tour comes Wednesday to the Stanislaus County Fair and is expected to attract huge crowds.
"It's the end of an era," Fatt said in a recent phone interview from Sydney. "I'm sure families will enjoy the show."
Fatt said he, Page and Cook decided to leave their Big Red Car behind so they can spend more time with their families and friends in Australia. The group tours eight months of the year and has performed more than 6,000 shows, which has taken its toll.
Page left the group for five years starting in 2006 when he was diagnosed with orthostatic intolerance, which caused fainting spells, lethargy, nausea and loss of balance. He recovered enough to return to the group at the start of this year.
But he has decided one more year of performing is enough. Still, he and the other members who are leaving will miss their fans.
"It's a little bit sad, though it's not going to hit us until our final concert in Sydney in December," he said. "We've seen some young children in tears. That really drives it home to you."
The trio will be replaced by Lachlan Gillespie, Simony Pryce and the Wiggles' first female member, Emma Watkins, who have been touring with the group for years and will appear at the Turlock show.
They were chosen largely based on their attitudes, as well as their talent, Fatt said. "It was all about personalities and whether or not they work well with you when you're touring. You're spending a lot of time away from home. That's when you really see what a person is like."
The Wiggles have built an immense international following, with fans throughout Europe, Asia and North America, as well as their home continent. Fatt said the group succeeded because Field, Cook and Page met while studying early childhood education in college and incorporated their knowledge into the songs.
"Us having that understanding of where children are coming from -- I think that's the main driving thing behind the Wiggles," he said. "Combine that with 'we wrote catchy songs now and then.' That related well with the parents. It would be difficult for a parent listening to a song that they can't stomach."
Fatt said children haven't changed much in the decades the Wiggles have toured.
"The same sorts of things appeal to children," he said. "The only thing that has changed is the technology. You can have applications that children can play on your iPad. The Internet has really taken off since we started. But essentially children are still the same. You have to maintain their concentration and engage them with things they understand."
Fatt said it's been fun to see fans of all ages enjoy the Wiggles shows. The group even attracts teens. But he said the classic Wiggles fan is age 2 or 3.
"That's a golden age as a parent, seeing the children react to things," he said. "It's such a magical time in life."