In a previous post , I mentioned that NFPA was searching for the new "Voice of Sparky®" to celebrate Sparky’s 60th birthday. Career firefighters, volunteer firefighters or other fire department employees were invited to submit videos of themselves giving their best Sparky impersonation. NFPA received two dozen videos, and a panel of judges from NFPA selected three finalists based on the best representation of Sparky's voice, as well as the creativity and enthusiasm used in the creation of the video.
A big hearty congratulations to Barry Brickey, public education officer for the Kingsport (TN) Fire Department for being selected as the new "Voice of Sparky®". Barry will receive an authentic Sparky the Fire Dog® costume (so jealous, Barry!), a trip to Boston to record for the NFPA Fire Prevention Week video – and public education materials to continue teaching children, their parents and educators about fire prevention and public safety. To see the winning video, click HERE.
Congratulations to the two other finalists in the "Voice of Sparky" contest, Steve McAdoo, Public Information Officer for the Clackamas (OR) Fire District #1 and Alex Mickschl, Fire Equipment Operator for the Spokane (WA) Fire Department.
When I first heard about this contest and that one of the prizes was a mascot costume, I thought, what better forum too share some tips for your department or organization’s mascot. Whether you have a Sparky the Fire Dog® costume or other costume, hopefully you will find the following tips useful:
- Be sure to have a performer with lots of enthusiasm wearing the costume. Maybe you have a firefighter that loves to wear the costume and share his inner child or perhaps a local college student is looking for community service hours and would volunteer to help.
- The classic rule, MASCOTS SHOULD NEVER SPEAK. When they do, it ruins the illusion that the mascot creates. I found the following tips (also known as classic excuses) to explain why your mascot is not able to speak: 1) He/she has a sore throat and 2) He/she is a bit shy, let’s tickle them and see if they laugh. Isn’t that perfect?
- Never (NEVER, EVER), take your mascots head off in front of children. This can be traumatizing!
- Keep your costume clean and in working order. Be sure to keep you costume in a bag so that it will not be seen by the public when you are carrying it to and from an event.
- Do not drink or eat in your costume. This also ruins the illusion. Have you ever seen a clown eat or drink? Case in point.
- Remember that you are representing your department or organization. Be on your best behavior at all times. Hiking your mascot’s leg at a fire hydrant might be funny to you, but not to the general public or to your Chief.
- Remember to keep your movements slower with children. Many times you will find that children are afraid of mascots. Let them come to you. If they do not come toward you that’s okay. My guess is that they will be back for a hug later on.
- Always have an escort. The mascot is the rock star. Everyone wants to shake your hand and have their picture made with you. Many times people may come from behind and you may not see them. Keep in mind that obstacles for falling are greater in a costume. And, finally, many times you may not see the younger set as your vision may be blocked by the costume. Escorts are perfect for this!