Transcript of Interview with Ruth Griffin of Metroparks of Toledo
Q: Tell us about your audience. Is your program primarily focused on children, teens, adults or all three? Do you find your mascot(s) are more effective with a large or small audience? How do you adjust your teaching/program for larger or smaller audiences?
A: Our program audience is all ages. The interesting thing for me to see as we rollout our Mascot program is how drawn to the Mascots adults are. The most common words out of their mouths are “We love our Metroparks!”. Our program is young. We debuted them in the Holiday Parade in downtown Toledo. Children and adults came out into the parade route to high five and hug. They have been to all audience sizes from our local hockey game with an audience of 8,000 to our Board meeting of 12 people. Our Mascots do not speak so their Handlers do all the talking. They seem to do well in large and small audiences.
Q: What are you teaching and how does your mascot(s) play a part? Do you have one educational topic or several?
A: We are developing a Fact Sheet on each of our Mascots – Owlberta the Barred Owl, Boggs the Leopard Frog and Otis the Oak Leaf. This fact sheet will interweave facts about the Characters (we have developed a personality for each) and facts about their real life counterparts. This will provide the main educational opportunity with the public. All of these animals are found in our Metroparks. So they serve as the catalyst to start the education about the Oak Openings Region.
Q: How does the audience interact with your mascot(s) in your program? Can you think of a memorable moment shared between a member of the audience and your mascot(s)?
A: The most recent interaction was taking them outside to play in the snow. Our Park Systems Outdoor Skills Department conducts programs in snow shoeing, cross country skiing, sledding, etc… We took the Mascots out and staged photo opportunities with them doing each of these things. There were not that many people out as it was cold and snowy but a few brave adventurers were out walking and many of them had their dogs with them. You should have seen those dogs stop and look real hard at the giant Owl, Frog and Leaf. It was quite hilarious. And all of those owners asked to have their dogs pictures taken with the Mascots.
Q: What advice would you give to other organizations considering using mascots for educational programs or purposes?
A: As I said we are very young in our Mascot program but so far we have reached an enormous audience. They have been featured on two major local televised events. Made appearances at community special events with a cumulative audience of over 35,000. And their calendar is booking up very quickly for the next several months. All of this and they are only 3 months old.
When starting your Mascot program plan it out. Plan how they will further your mission/cause. How will you utilize them with large and small audiences, on social media and with the press. Also reach out to other organization with mascots in your community. Our Mascots are making ‘mascot friends” all over town. And we turn every encounter into an educational experience. Such as at the Holiday Parade when Owlberta came face to face with Mascot Mice from another organization. As owls eat mice this was quite the educational moment.
Ruth Griffin is the Special Events Coordinator and Class Leader at MetroParks of Toledo Area. http://www.metroparkstoledo.com/metro/