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Topic:  Pay 300/hr to have your alma mater mascot at your wedding-WSJ

Topic:  Pay 300/hr to have your alma mater mascot at your wedding-WSJ
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  Message Not Read  Pay 300/hr to have your alma mater mascot at your wedding-WSJ
   Posted: 8/29/2023 10:24:35 AM 
Brianna Dial was taking photos with her family after her wedding ceremony in Aloha, Ore., when she spotted a guest she hadn’t previously noticed, or even invited.

She gasped—and then ran straight into the arms of the guest, “Benny Beaver,” the mascot of Oregon State University.

“I am not exaggerating, I was more excited to see Benny than I was to do a first look with my husband,” said Dial.

Most people know mascots as zany costumed characters that dance around college stadiums and whip up the crowd. But some fans adore mascots enough to invite them to personal milestone events and pay fees of up to $300 an hour. Dial, 30 years old, later learned her mother-in-law had requested Benny’s presence at the wedding reception as a surprise for the newlyweds, both of whom attended OSU.

College sports fans are the largest fan base in the U.S., with more avid followers than any professional sport, according to a 2021 report by marketing-research firm Learfield.

Brianna Dial and her husband Stephen Gessling pose with Benny Beaver, the mascot of Oregon State University, at their wedding in Aloha, Ore. PHOTO: ERIN AUDISS/AUDISS PHOTO CO.
Mascots themselves have become celebrities, with their own fan clubs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages drawing thousands of supporters.

The Mascot Hall of Fame, in Whiting, Ind., celebrates professional and college mascots. Past nominees include the University of Minnesota’s Goldy Gopher and Georgia Tech’s Buzz the Yellow Jacket, known for his bright yellow-and-black stinger and flips on the field. Stepping into the mascot costume is no small feat, said Joby Giacalone, executive selection committee chairman of the Mascot Hall of Fame, noting the tryout process can be competitive, with students at some colleges vying for a scholarship that comes with the mascot position.

After the Mascot Hall of Fame releases its list of nominees, the public takes to the polls over a two-week period. This year, the hall collected 95,000 ballots, Giacalone said. Characters who emerge victorious celebrate their inductions at the hall, he said, where mascots dance, take photos and show off their “big, gaudy” rings.

Syracuse University’s Otto the Orange, a huge, happy citrus fruit with a blue hat, was one of two inductees in the 2023 Mascot Hall of Fame. Otto appeared at 800 on-campus and off-campus events in the 2022-23 school year, 100 more than in 2019, said Julie Walas, coach of Syracuse’s mascot program.

“The world of Otto has gotten really big,” she said, adding that the orange has shown up at birthday and graduation parties.

Syracuse University’s Otto the Orange appears at hundreds of on-campus and off-campus events. PHOTO: GREGORY FISHER/ICON SPORTSWIRE/ZUMA PRESS
Ethan Hartz, a recent graduate from the University of Miami, took on the role of Sebastian the Ibis, also known as “America’s favorite bird,” during four years of college. Dressed as Sebastian on game days, he would spell the letters C-A-N-E-S—short for the Miami Hurricanes—with his body as the crowd cheered along.

He said demand for Sebastian was so high his senior year that he was booked to appear at a wedding after most every home football game.

On those days, Hartz might spend 12 hours suited up in white feathers, a vibrant orange beak and huge sneakers. Once in that bird suit, he had a relentlessly positive persona to uphold and there was no stepping out of character.

“I’d always walk around with big swinging arms and a skip to my step,” he said, adding that he often powered through one to two-hour events without a break. Sometimes, Hartz added, he would pull out a water bottle and drink through his beak, providing both refreshment for himself and entertainment for the crowd.

Oscar Dunkle, a senior and former mascot at Bowling Green State University, attended a local block party as Frieda Falcon last summer. The festival had a zip line, and, trying to keep in the spirit of the party, Dunkle climbed into the harness, mascot costume and all.

“It was taking a leap of faith, of sorts, off the zip line,” Dunkle said.

Some students behind the mascot costume receive payment for attending off-campus events, while others, classified as athletes or volunteers, don’t. Profits from off-campus appearances can go toward upkeep mascot costumes or sending students to national spirit competitions.

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New Mexico State University mascot Pistol Pete, Detroit Lions Mascot Roary and Bowling Green State University mascot Freddie Falcon got together before a game last year. PHOTO: SCOTT HASSE/ZUMA PRESS
Colleges often require students playing mascots to remain anonymous by refraining from talking while in costume or taking off their gear in public.

Mascots on off-campus side gigs risk further exposure—and have to take extra precautions to stay incognito, says Sawyer Holbrook, a third-year student at Bowling Green State, who played Frieda Falcon or Frieda’s sidekick Freddie Falcon.

At events, she tried to take breaks in empty restrooms where she could lock the door, take off her mascot head and take a sip of water.

But, at one event, a guest unexpectedly entered while Holbrook and a fellow student took a break. Holbrook dashed into the bathroom stall and hid there until the guest left.

“We’re hiding in the stalls just with our big Converse feet and our bird heads,” Holbrook said. “It was definitely a lot of thinking on your feet.”

Brendan Healy, a senior at Texas Christian University, who plays the mascot SuperFrog, rushed from the seventh inning of a TCU baseball game to the dance floor of an alumni wedding, never stopping to take his frog costume off.

“I’ve only had a few days like that as SuperFrog, but that’s one I’m never going to forget,” Healy said.

Newlyweds and Texas Christian University alumni Grace Payne and Paul DeHondt dance with the TCU mascot SuperFrog, aka Brendan Healy, at their wedding. PHOTO: LYNCCA HARVEY PHOTOGRAPHY
Grace Payne and Paul DeHondt, the TCU alumni who had Healy at their wedding, said SuperFrog’s presence surprised their guests, which included many alums. When the TCU baseball game ended in victory in the middle of her wedding reception, Payne was ecstatic to celebrate the win with her family—and SuperFrog—by her side.

“It was definitely the highlight,” Payne said. “Everyone was going crazy.”

Her guests were thrilled to be in SuperFrog’s presence, she says. The only exceptions, she adds, may have been alumni hailing from the rival schools of University of Texas and Texas A&M University.

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Alan Swank
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Member Since: 12/11/2004
Location: Athens, OH
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  Message Not Read  RE: Pay 300/hr to have your alma mater mascot at your wedding-WSJ
   Posted: 8/29/2023 10:43:26 AM 
Several years ago we attended the wedding of two of our son's friends here in Athens at the church next to where the Oasis used to be. As the bride and groom exited the church, members of the 110 were assembled outside to welcome them with Stand Up and Cheer and a couple other songs. Needless to say, it was quite the hit. Can't remember if it was a gift from the bride to the groom or vice versa but needless to say, it was quite the hit.

I have the video on my phone but no idea how to upload it.
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  Message Not Read  RE: Pay 300/hr to have your alma mater mascot at your wedding-WSJ
   Posted: 8/30/2023 5:57:41 PM 
We were at a wedding in Michigan recently and the Spartan was there.
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