This time of year, we’re bombarded with seasonal images. Turkeys and Santa trigger thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas. However, there are plenty of other visual prompts year-round.
They might not be as iconic as turkeys and Santa, but the mascots that represent the Philadelphia Eagles, Phillies, Flyers and 76ers trigger widespread recognition. Thanks to global promotion, Geico’s loquacious gecko and McDonald’s clownish Ronald are even more recognizable. And sports fans around the world will soon be a lot more familiar with Miraitowa, mascot for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and Someity, mascot for the 2020 Paralympics.
That said, these A-list personas have a whole bunch of B-list cousins – mascots who routinely cheer on the crowds at local scholastic sports events, open houses and fundraising events. For example, Plymouth Whitemarsh High School’s Colonial, Norristown Area High School’s Eagle or Montgomery County Community College’s Mustang. Patrons of certain stores and banks recognize characters like QNB bank’s QuiNBy the Savings Squirrel, one of the bigger-than-life attendees at this fall’s Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Expo.
Another contingent of suburban and city mascots – including the mega-popular Philly Phanatic – joined forces at September’s Mascot Mini-Marathon 5K and Kids Quarter Mile Fun Run to benefit Mascots for a Cure at Citizens Bank Park.
Area residents who’ve peopled such transformations over the years typically have fond memories of their temporary alter egos. Take Clint Gates. The Conshohocken man is about to reprise his role as Plymouth Whitemarsh High School’s Colonial at Conshohocken’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Mary Wood Park House, 120 E. 5th Ave., Nov. 29 at 5:45 p.m.
The outfit worn by PW’s contemporary Colonial is only a few years old, and various students take turns manning the figure. But Gates treasures the now-vintage costume he wore at PW and calls his days doubling as the school’s Colonial “awesome.”
“It was a lot of fun, especially the road trips…some of the best years of my life,” says Gates, who helped energize the fans at school football and basketball games from 1998 until he graduated in 2002. “It was all good, a fun ride regardless of the game’s outcome…although, yeah, it was always better to win.
“I can still tell you my most memorable experience as the Colonial. Thanksgiving Day 1999. We were playing Norristown (Area High School) at the old Roosevelt Field, and we shut them out 3-0. It was a humid, 65-degree day…the warmest Thanksgiving I can remember, but it was all good.”
These days, Gates volunteers as announcer for the Conshohocken Golden Bears football organization, a slot he’s filled for the past 18 seasons, but he’s “always happy” to reminisce about his stint as the face of the Colonials with old friends and former classmates.
“Just thinking about it brings back so many great memories,” he says.
Meanwhile, current students from PW, Norristown and Upper Merion Area High Schools are breathing life into the Hawk mascot that represents Central Montco Technical High School at community events, student club conferences and inter-school cheer competitions.
Visual Arts Instructor Steve Bross was among the CMTHS staffers who spearheaded the mascot’s creation roughly 10 years ago.
“Basically, we’d just had a name change – from Center for Technical Studies to Central Montco Technical High School, so it seemed like a good idea for branding purposes,” Bross says. “We decided on…the Hawk because we’d noticed there was a hawk that seemed to spend a lot of time in the park next to the school.”
CMTHS’s new mascot also provided a rallying point for competitions held during periodic career leadership conferences.
“We thought the Hawk would help us when it came to some of the school spirit (competitions), and it has,” Bross continues. “It gave us an identity, visually…and it gave our student mascots another way to excel.”
Conshohocken United Methodist Church recently introduced a giant inflatable dinosaur dubbed ConshySaurusRex as the congregation’s mascot.
Why did CUMC need a mascot in addition to…well, you know who?
“This is a really small but very active congregation, and the idea came about, maybe a year and a half ago, when…our Church Community Connection Team was trying to come up with ideas to build relationships among the people in our congregation and the community,” CUMC member Pat Patterson explains. “We’ve done many events and hosted many groups in Jillian’s Café (CUMC’s on-site coffee house), but we saw this as another way to get the community’s attention…when we’re involved in events outside the church. Like the Conshy Funfest. We had our ConshySaurusRex set up there, and it was a huge draw…a great way, we think, to bring attention and recognition to (CUMC) as an active member of the Conshohocken community.”
No chance ConshySaurusRex will make it into the Whiting, Indiana-based Mascot Hall of Fame founded by first-ever Philly Phanatic David Raymond in 2005 and set to announce its 2020 inductees at its annual Fur Tie Fundraiser on Dec. 11. But prizes aren’t the point, Patterson adds.
“Yeah, we know the whole thing is kind of silly, but we’re having a lot of fun with it,” she says.