Ballard’s latest exhibit features famous sports mascots

A variety of mascots can be found at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry on Monday Oct. 24. The mascots of the 21st century is open, ranging from pro sport mascots to commercial mascots. (Jon Sammis/ The Daily Campus)

Mascot culture has had a huge impact on school spirit here at the University of Connecticut. Our mascot, Jonathan the Husky, can be spotted at games and school events interacting with UConn fans and students with charm and hilarity. Mascots’ exciting and often silly performances can leave people full of team spirit and make a lasting impact on those in attendance.

The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry’s latest exhibit, “Mascots! Mask Performance in the 21st Century,” highlights the importance of these costumes on sports and commercial pop culture.

When you enter the exhibit, there is a quick primer on the history of mascots in popular culture. According to the exhibit, mascots were traditionally used in rituals around the world throughout human history. As humans began to develop and modernize, however, mascots slowly moved into pop culture. Over the years, the term mascot had grown and changed into what we know today.

The Ballard also featured a step by step process on how mascots are made. Those who come to the exhibit are given the chance to touch some of the fabrics and furs that would be used during the mascot making process. The exhibit also included instructions on how mascots stayed cool, how they made the mascots clothes and even how the maker accounted for the changing show size of those who share a costume. This part of the exhibit was incredibly interesting and allowed those in attendance to get a hands-on idea of what goes into making a mascot.

Standing in the center of the exhibit floor is the University of Connecticut’s own all-white Jonathan the Husky Mascot. The white Jonathan mascot costume was retired back in 2014 when the University of Connecticut changed its logo. Right next to the costume was a panel describing the history of the mascot costume, detailing its humble beginnings as Homer the Husky to the mascot we know and love today.

Humming in the corner was the inflatable mascot for University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lil Red. The collegiate mascot section also featured University of Kansas’ famous Big Jay and Baby Jay. Both mascots were placed historically by an informational panel describing the history of mascots in the collegiate world and their importance to modern college sport society.

In the back of the Ballard, the exhibit displayed several commercial and professional sports mascots. Mascots like the Red Sox’s Wally the Green Mascot, the Washington Capital’s Winger the Eagle, the Cleveland Indian’s Slider and the Famous San Diego Chicken were all displayed in the exhibit.

Each of these mascots played an exceptionally important role in the rise of mascots in the sports industry, particularly The Famous San Diego Chicken. The Famous San Diego Chicken is one of the most famous mascots of all time, as it was the first to combine slapstick comedy with a mascot costume, according to the exhibit.

Across from the professional sports mascots were the commercial mascots. Buster Brackets, a commercial mascot created specifically for March Madness, stood next to a mascot of a Giraffe.

“Mascots! Mask Performance in the 21st Century” will be on display in the Ballard through Feb. 11, 2018.


Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lauren.brown@uconn.edu.