Dancing With the Bears: UAF Seeks New Mascots
By Rebecca Coleman
Sun Star Reporter
The UAF mascot came about in the early days of hockey. There was no costume, nor was there one person to act as the mascot. A few community members went around to local businesses, convincing them to donate money towards suits. They thought it would bring life and excitement to the games.
Now, the original community members who wore the suits are getting older and are less interested in continuing to be the mascot. This lead to the current predicament of needing to find some new mascots.
“It’s a rarity that we find ourselves in this opportunity,” said Darrell Clark, the Associate Athletic Director of Marketing and Promotions. He is the person in charge of mascot try-outs. “Students usually find their own replacements. This year, we decided to give everyone a shot. We want a core group of about five or six.”
Mascot try-outs took place on Thursday afternoon in the Patty Center. Only six students came to audition, but Clark was still excited. “I think they won’t show up unless they really want to do it,” he said earlier.
All six mascot-hopefuls performed with zest. They each got dressed in the bear suit, one at a time, and danced to a random song of Clark’s choosing for one minute. “The whole gymnasium is your canvas,” Clark told participants. Dances ranged from theatrics to hip-hop, and included flips, splits, falling on the floor, and playing with props.
The current mascots, senior Eric Prowker and junior Hannah Foss, will be part of the decision-making process of picking the new mascots.
Prowker has been a mascot since 2006. His orientation leader at freshmen orientation was the mascot then and made an announcement that new mascots were needed. “I thought it would be a great way to stay around athletics,” he said. Now, he’s “looking for someone to hand off the torch. It was a lot of fun while it lasted.”
Foss is from Australia and was “really stoked seeing how [the mascot] interacted with people” at her first Nanooks hockey game. “In Australia, we don’t have mascots.” She became a mascot in December of 2008, nine months after coming to America. She has been a mascot mostly at hockey games. “Stepping onto the ice, through the fog for the first time makes you realize how awesome it is,” she said.
Clark thinks being a mascot is a pretty amazing thing. “You get to become this creature, entertain the masses, and no one knows who you are,” he said. “It’s exciting and an honor, but it’s hard work.”
During her audition, Ashleigh Strange discovered just how hard being a mascot can be. For one thing, “The feet are a lot bigger than I thought,” she said. It can also be hard figuring out what to do in the suit. “I tried to think of what to do, but you can’t really see, so you just give it up and improvise.” Strange had similar experiences to being a mascot when she was a kid. Her mom owned a party business, so she was a clown. She looks forward to being a mascot and going to the all the sports. “Anywhere you can get people pumped up,” she said.
Between routines, Clark kept the atmosphere light by shooting baskets backwards. “This is for other people, Darrell, not you,” joked Matt Anderson, one of the Athletic Department’s student workers.
Mary Simmons, a senior from Texas, auditioned after Strange. Being her first year at UAF, Simmons wanted to do something to get involved. Simmons did cheer and dance when she was younger, so performing was nothing new to her. For her audition, “They played my favorite song from Pretty Woman (“Kiss” by Prince), so I just hoped that I got to do my ‘kiss’ move before my minute was up,” she said. “It was a great experience.”
At the end of auditions, Clark was happy. “I didn’t realize it was going to be this much fun,” he said.
Clark, Prowker, and Foss will decide on the new mascots early this week. However, identities of the new mascots will remain secret, as it is “part of the magic,” Clark said.