When you picture a mascot at a theme park, you probably picture Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck or Goofy. I'm sure the people wearing those costumes in the unbearable heat have some good stories to tell.
But what about the lesser known mascots? Mascots for the Cedar Fair parks, Six Flags or Dollywood? We may interact with fewer guests in a year, but boy, do we have some stories.
When I was in high school, and for part of college, I worked for one of the Cedar Fair parks. My stepdad was a mascot for the local hockey and soccer teams, and he had some fun stories, so I figured I'd give it a go at our local theme park.
Luckily for me, I was under five feet tall. The perfect height for Snoopy. And who's the main character from the peanuts that everyone knows? Snoopy.
By the time this incident happened, I had been in the costume for close to three years. I had the energy, the stamina, the heat tolerance and the pure unfiltered stubborn and obnoxious attitude that they loved to see in the characters. I hit every pose, knew every dance routine and some of the season pass holders even knew when it was me in that costume based on energy level alone.
I thought I knew what I was doing. I thought I had my blind spots figured out and thought I could read people well enough to determine their next move.
And then a toddler blew out my knee.
I'd like to say it was a normal day, but it was three weeks before Halloween, and Snoopy had to wear a mask and a cape for the whole day, and to add to it, I was working a 14 hour shift. I was Snoopy during the day, and a Haunt monster by night.
I was walking around the park, slinging my cape around, climbing on things I wasn't allowed to climb on and posing with park guests when the mask attached to the Snoopy head started to slip. I smacked my spotter and tapped my eyes. My spotter looked confused. (Yay, new people.)
I made the assumption that I'd need to switch from looking out the eyes to looking out the nose for the next 15 minutes. I really should've thrown a fit about not being able to see.
Naturally, in the last few minutes before I was supposed to go inside, I got swarmed by people wanting pictures. I go through the motions: pose, high five, nod, do a bad dance move, repeat. And then I hear the little voice. "Spoopy?" I don't think anything of it and continue my routine because I can't see where the voice is coming from. And then I feel the impact.
My knee buckled, I hit the ground, the Snoopy nose cracks the pavement, the rest of my body rolls into a bush and the crowd gasps. "Sowee Spoopy...." I heard the little voice again. I took a quick look around and saw a little girl, maybe two years old, who I somehow managed not to land on, starting to cry while standing next to me.
I can't break this child, I can't break this child.
I moved myself to sit up and held my arms out to the little girl. She ran in for a hug and started sobbing, and I motioned for the dad to take the picture.
At this point, I had no idea how bad my knee actually was. I knew I had twisted it, but at that point, I was 90 pounds of pure stubborn and still had almost eight hours of my shift left. I was determined to finish it out.
Looking back on it, that was probably a mistake. My spot as Snoopy included a four song dancing character show at the end of the day. This show involved a number of high kicks...
The first one was a part of the second song where everyone was standing in a triangle formation, kicked their leg out to the side and then swung around into a turn. I kicked my leg out, and the sore knee buckled. It was probably a very good thing that I was at the front of that triangle or I may have very well taken the rest of the triangle down with me.
I was determined to finish my shift and worked Haunt that night too, but the next morning we got my knee checked out by a doctor. I had a partially torn MCL and meniscus and had to wear a knee brace for almost my entire senior year.
I was a lot more careful about my choices while in that Snoopy suit for the three years following that and also learned to keep my back up against something in case I got pulled down.
Please be especially careful with your theme park mascots. They get beat up, they're hot, they probably only get one day off a week and you never know if the person before you hurt them on accident. (Or on purpose.)