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Going to Camp to Become a Sports Mascot

  • June Soh

Mascots help to get crowds excited at every level of sports competitions - from high schools to professional teams. Companies and organizations also use the costumed characters to present a friendly corporate image.

Summer mascot camp is underway near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

“I am the wild cat," said Jesse King. "I have learned a lot just about how to develop my personality and I think that will really help me.”

This is high school student Jesse King's first time at mascot camp. Half the participants are returning campers like Frank Vespe, a full-time mascot for a professional baseball team.

“I like to present the campers with skills that I have and learn new skills along the way," said professional mascot Frank Vespe.

Caren Simmons' red robin represents a local restaurant.

“I have been doing this for 11 years," said Simmons. "It is relief and release. I work full time for the federal government that can be very trying and very frustrating. This is a physical outlet with a lot of physical fun.”

The camp is run by veteran mascot Erin Blank.

“I started Keystone mascots about 15 years ago," said Blank. "Mainly because there was a need for people like myself to learn performing skills and have costumes that will be going to be able to fit them in a more effective way.”

Campers learn how to use props, how to show emotions, as well as mascot rules, safety, and responsibility, which Blank says are as important as being entertaining.

“It is to promote the organization they represent," she said. "Whether it is a sport or a school or even a business or a corporation, we want to be the most positive image that the business can put out into the community."

Blank wanted to be a mascot since she was 10-years-old.

“In elementary school, I got to wear a Cookie Monster costume and I fell in love with the activity," she said.

And she's been a mascot for a variety of sports teams and organizations since then.

“At 42-years-old I am still being a mascot. It is addicting," said Blank. "I tried to quit four times and it didn’t happen. Considering one of the oldest performers I have ever met is 72, it might be awhile before I could quit again.”

Blank also builds mascot costumes in her basement studio.

“We actually build them so the whole thing is water washable," she said. "We like to put a baseball helmet for our heads. The hair, there is actually ventilation holes throughout the whole head that allow for the steam to rise out, and the same with the body.”

Sweat, however, stays inside. Blank's current costume - the mascot for the Lancaster City football team - is soaked after a performance.

“When I put it on, it is probably five degrees hotter than outside. It is humid. Right now it just feels like I am in a kind of rain cloud inside my costume," she said.

Blank takes her campers to a minor league baseball game in Harrisburg for a graduation performance. Despite the heat hovering near 37 degrees Celsius, the mascots are enjoying the show... and so is the crowd.