Being a mascot is more than just child’s play

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pretending to be something that you are not is not just child’s play. It’s a getaway, a job, a hobby and a second life for many who take on the role of mascot or re-enactor.

But most important, the role isn’t about the pretender, it’s about those for whom they perform.

It’s about laughs, intrigued faces and teaching a lesson. It’s about making others smile.

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Being the moose

Tyler Nations is a well-known person around Natchez.

You may not recognize the name, but you’ll know him when you see him.

He’s the man inside the moose outfit that represents the Natchez Moose Lodge at events around town.

Nations, an eighth-grader at Cathedral School, has been donning the moose costume for events such as Relay for Life and the Red Cross Blood Drive since 2006.

“They needed somebody to do it and I volunteered, Nations said. “I enjoy being in it. It’s a great overall feeling.”

Nations isn’t the only one who wears the suit. He wears it mostly for events where he doesn’t have to walk around too much while someone else wears it for the parades.

“If I don’t have to walk a lot, I’ll wear it,” Nations said. “The head is very bulky. I have to hold up the head in order to see out of it. It’s hard to see where I’m going.”

Nations didn’t stumble into the moose costume by accident. His family is very active in the lodge and Tyler was elected president of the teen center at the lodge and was named youth of the year.

“Tyler does a lot up here,” said Beverly Gremillion, recorder for the women of the Moose Lodge. “The people up here know if they need help, all they have to do is call Tyler.”

Allen Burchfield, governor of the lodge, agrees.

“He’s always here to help with anything we need him to do,” Burchfield said. “He’s a very good young man.”

While Nations is willing to help out in any way at the lodge, the thing that he is most recognized for is filling out the moose costume.

In fact, when he walks the halls at Cathedral, he is referred to by most people not by his name, but by a certain nickname.

“A lot of people have nicknamed me ‘Moose,’” Nations said. “I’m OK with that. It’s all in fun.”

The moose is quite a popular guy at events around town, loved by kids and adults alike, Burchfield said.

“The kids love it, but the adults love it just as much as the kids,” Burchfield said. “They come up and pet it and everything.”

Gremillion agreed the moose’s popularity is great at events in town.

“The kids at the parades look forward to seeing it,” she said. “They enjoy getting their pictures taken with it.”

And memories like those are one of the reasons Nations will continue to put on the costume in the future.

“I’ll keep doing it as long as they want me to,” he said. “I really enjoy it.”

Back in time

Finley Hootsell has been involved in early American reenactments for the past 20 years and has hosted one on his property in Adams County since 1989.

“It is a historical reenactment for people interested in living American history,” Hootsell said. “The era we concentrate on is from roughly 1790 to 1840, which was the fur trade era. The idea is to recreate that era as a living history.”

The events, called rendezvous, consist of people from around the country to live for a week or so as the people in the early American era did, with period outfits and in huts. A tomahawk throwing competition or musket firing contest might be in order as well as fire making and camping skills.

“You can have a 1790s colonial military camp and a few feet down from that you can see a tee-pee,” Hootsell said. “It features a wide slice of American life.”

The rendezvous Hootsell hosts lasts for 10 days in November and has had upwards of 200 participants from across the country.

Web sites that have scheduled encampments allow participants to find out when and where they are going to be.

Hootsell said his love of the outdoors is what initially drew him into the reenactments.

“I grew up in scouting and in the Southern outdoors trapping, fishing and hunting,” Hootsell said. “That led me to be interested in primitive skills. I found people who were interested in the same thing and I just fell right into it.”

Hootsell said he enjoys taking a week to just get away from the strain and hassle of modern life.

“The atmosphere we try to create and maintain is really a much simpler time,” he said. “It’s nice to just get away from the modern world, with the TVs, radios and Internet.”

And the rendezvous is a time to fellowship and enjoy nature.

“There are a lot of people I’m close friends with who I only see at these events,” Hootsell said. “It’s a great time to become more self-sufficient, eat good food and fellowship with friends. It’s an awful lot of fun.”