Somehow, I’ve inherited the role of portraying Alfunz, the Sanford Children’s mascot.
That’s me, er… um, him on the right, next to Thundar, the NDSU Bison Mascot. Please be aware – Alfunz is not a mouse, he’s a Peekador. Click on his name if you’d like to read his bio, and find out exactly what a Peekador is.
Today, we, er Alfunz got together with some NDSU football players to walk through the Children’s hospital delivering some gift bags.
It is a great opportunity to be Alfunz. You get to hug kids, and walk around giving high fives and dancing at community events.
Yeah, he’s adorable! But let me just say it is not all fun and games. Its also hot, confining, claustrophobic and you can’t hear or see much of anything when you have the costume on.
Luckily, I have a great co-worker/friend who acts as my “handler.” Since the only air/visibility opening is in the mouth, my handler has to tell me when people are near, and whether they are on the right or left, and if they are waving, or wanting to shake hands, or hug or dance. No small feat, to do inconspicuously, while at the same time, loud enough for me to hear!
To successfully take on the role of mascot, you must actively and energetically become that character. I’m not sure why, at 55 years old, I’m the one hopping and prancing around in a 50 pound fur suit, when there are plenty of people half my age who could do it much better. Maybe I need the attention, maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment.
I got my start in Mascottery (my made up word) about 30 years ago in Seattle. The AAA Auto Club where Downtown Dad and I worked, brought in the Flintmobile as an entry in the SeaFair parade, to promote seatbelt usage. Along with the vehicle, which really ran, came big full body fur costumes for Fred, Wilma, Dino. Barney and Betty. Of course I chose to be Betty!
But that’s where the glitz and glamour end. The SeaFair parade is held in July, probably the only month in Seattle where the temps go above 72. On this day, it must have been in the upper 80s. And we weren’t the first people to wear these costumes, oh no! Not by a long shot. When we opened the wooden shipping crates that held each costume, we were nearly bowled over by the smell of sweat, wet fur, mildew, and some kind of terrible orange “air freshener” they had apparently been doused with after their last use before slamming the crate lid on them. Hanging the costumes inside out overnight helped some, but not nearly enough.
One of the rules of conduct when wearing a mascot costume is that while you are in costume, you give up your own personality, and individuality and transform yourself into that character. Your walk changes, your gestures change, your whole demeanor changes. You are first and foremost a larger than life entertainer. But most importantly, you must Never EVER talk. Your only means of communication is through pantomime. Even if you are being mobbed by 150 children who very nearly sweep you into the crowd of spectators, you mustn’t scream, swear, or make any growling noises.
Also very important in the Mascot Code of Conduct is that no one should ever see the character transformation, or any part of your skin. You must change into and out of your costume in complete private. Even though the combination of mildew, and Orange air freshener is searing your throat and lungs, and the sweat that is pouring off of your forehead into your eyes has nearly blinded you.
Today’s adventure wasn’t as grueling, although I did wish I hadn’t forgotten to wear my sweatband as we posed for pictures in several toasty hospital rooms. But the big grins on those little kids faces more than made up for a little discomfort!