Mascot performing is a hot, sweaty job. This is not ground-breaking news. Probably the most asked question of performers while in costume is, “You must be hot in there, huh?” or “How hot are you in that?” The typical sports fan or event attendee can only imagine how hot it gets inside a costume. And the performer inside certainly doesn’t need to be reminded of just how hot they feel!
But it begs a question, “How hot does it actually get inside a mascot costume?” There are claims of temperatures as high as 140 degrees on various websites, but there doesn’t appear to be actual hard data.
To answer this question, we need to gather some real data. And the kind of data that we gather matters too. It would be possible to simply place a small ambient thermometer inside a mascot costume with a performer inside. And we could record the ambient temperature after 20 minutes, both with the performer at rest and with the performer very active. It also would be prudent to gather ambient temperature with the performer indoors (72°F) and outside on a hot day (+80°F).
However, the ambient temperature, both outside AND inside of the suit, does not give us a sense of what it feels like for the performer. It also doesn’t tell the whole story of the physical toll the heat takes on the performer.
The measurement established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, which OSHA uses for workplace safety, is the wet-bulb globe temperature. It measures temperature, humidity, wind speed, and visible and infrared radiation to give the perceived temperature a person is experiencing. Anyone who lives in a humid state will tell you that the temperature alone doesn’t tell you how it feels.
Can we get WBGT (wet-bulb globe temperature) inside of a mascot suit with a performer? With some real data in hand, we could begin to establish protocols for the length of time in costume and the length of breaks for performers that are hard to refute.
We are starting a quest for that kind of data. More to come in the days and weeks ahead…
Besides being the Prez of the National Mascot Association, I’m also Queen of Fuzz at Avant Garb Mascots. Often we get calls at the mascot studio from news orgs and production companies that are thinking about doing a show, writing a piece about mascots or getting a quote about something happening in the mascot world.
When I got a call last week from a TV production company, I felt pretty blasé. I asked the woman to call me back this week because I was just heading out the door.
She called back, we chatted.
After about 20 minutes, she threw in the nugget. To be part of the costume program, we would have to cough up something she called an affiliation fee of $9700. It was to cover insurance and legalization.
I ended the conversation – knowing this was some sort of scam.
that’s nuts. Never heard of affiliation fees
I got in touch with a longtime friend in LA who had a production company – produced shows on MTV, NBC & now Dreamworks. She’s been in the business for decades. She’s never heard of an affiliation fee. Her exact response was, “that’s nuts. Never heard of affiliation fees.”
Mascot makers – if you get a call about a costume TV show, be wary. Before launching into a chat, ask the person on the phone to tell you about the show, where it will be seen, if it’s a very remote cable channel or if they seem secretive in any sort of way, you may consider hanging up.
Sparty, the mascot for Michigan State U won’t be in parades anymore.
We, here at the NMA, promote safety for mascot performers, so when we read this article we were very interested.
Here’s the article. What are your thoughts?
Michigan State University’s Sparty mascot can no longer participate in parades
Eric Lacy, Lansing State Journal Published 3:40 p.m. ET June 5, 2019 | Updated 5:57 p.m. ET June 5, 2019
EAST LANSING – Citing safety concerns, Michigan State University officials have decided that people who wear the Sparty mascot costume can no longer participate in parades.
Emily Guerrant, an MSU spokesperson, confirmed the new policy Wednesday in an email to the State Journal.
“The MSU Alumni Office has decided that as of May 1, 2019 Sparty will no longer be able to participate in parades,” Guerrant said. “This decision was made due to health concerns for Sparty and his team.
“Participating in parades increases the risk of heat stroke and health related concerns regardless of temperature and duration. It is our responsibility to ensure the safety of Sparty and his team.”
Responding to follow up questions in a telephone interview, Guerrant said the policy is “still in development” and expected to be reevaluated later this year.
Guerrant said there have been no near-death experiences for students who have worn the Sparty mascot suit at parades, but there were some concerns students have “pushed themselves too hard” in hot weather.
Homecoming appears safe
Sparty still is expected to participate in MSU’s annual Homecoming Parade in East Lansing each fall unless the weather conditions pose health risks.
Other special events on or near campus also remain a possibility.
For example, if the MSU men’s basketball team wins a national championship and has a parade next season, Sparty would most likely have a presence, Guerrant said.
“If they did that and we had a parade right away in April, I think there would be a strong chance of seeing Sparty,” Guerrant said.
In 2000, coach Tom Izzo’s team won a title and participated in a parade with Sparty that ran from downtown Lansing to downtown East Lansing.
Football status quo
Sparty still is expected to appear at home football games and some road contests.
Students appearing as Sparty don’t wear the costume for the entire game and take breaks.
Harrison Halley, 24, of Novi, graduated from MSU in 2017 and wore the costume for two years.
Halley said he’d be disappointed if he was still a Sparty and told by MSU officials he could no longer participate in parades.
“For me, doing parades wasn’t much different than other events,” Halley said. “Yeah, they were hot. Yeah, they were long.
“But as long as you took care of yourself and were hydrated, they were doable.” Cherry Festival void
Cherry Festival void
Sparty has appeared at Traverse City’s National Cherry Festival for at least 25 years. This year’s event takes place June 29 to July 6.
Kat Paye, the festival’s executive director, said she respects MSU’s decision. In fact, festival organizers pulled the Super Cherry mascot out of their own parade last year due to hot weather.
“For mascots far and wide, we understand that July is not the most opportune time to visit us,” Paye said.
MSU alumni in Traverse City also are bummed out by the news.
Art Bukowski, a 2004 graduate, serves as vice president of the Grand Traverse Area Spartans. The group has a mailing list of “several thousand” and 15 board members, he said.
“Sparty has been a fan favorite here for many, many years,” Bukowski said. “We’re very disappointed that he won’t be up here.
“But we completely understand the reasoning behind this decision, and the health of the students has to be first and foremost.”
Mascot’s history dates to 1950s
There is not a lot of documentation of the early Sparty, but his beginnings can be traced back to a papier-mache head that debuted in the early 1950s.
It was made by Theta Xi fraternity brothers Don Bauer, Donald Pais and Kenneth Roberts, according to the MSU Association of Future Alumni website.
The head was six feet tall and weighed more than 60 pounds.
Eric Lacy is a reporter for the Lansing State Journal. Contact him at 517-377-1206 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @EricLacy.