This is No Ordinary Bird

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Students looking for a chance to express their school spirit can do so by applying to be Pierce College’s mascot, the Raider.

Not everyone gets to view the world from inside a large, fake bird, but Pierce College mascots do just that.

Raider mascot Khuong “Finn” Ho, a recent Theatre and Performance Art graduate at Fort Steilacoom, flapped his wings and cheered on Pierce students for the past two years.

“I just love the whole idea of it,” says Ho. “It is an odd job, but it requires so much more than you’d think. It’s like being a superhero. No one knows who you are, yet people still know who you are. Also, I get the best spots to watch the games.”

The Athletic Department and Student Life Office are always looking for students to serve as the mascot, according to Duncan Stevenson, Pierce College Athletic Director.

“We’ll take anybody of any age and size,” says Stevenson. “What we’re looking for is the energy and the interest and enthusiasm to do it.”

Mascots often start as first-year students then stay for their second year, states Doug Carlson, Operations Manager of the Health Education Center on campus, who hires the mascots.

“We’ve actually had more short people than tall people in the costume,” says Carlson. “Almost everybody has been under 6 feet.”

This is a job with big shoes to fill. Mascot Ho was up to the challenge.

Marcom / Courtesy Photo, Abri Wilson / Staff Illustration

“Moving is easy, though with the big bird feet, stairs are challenging,” says Ho. “Sound wise, everything is quieter. Vision is surprisingly better than one would think.”

The mascots boost school spirit at indoor sports games – volleyball and basketball – and at Student Life events such as “Welcome Days”. In the past two years “the bird” has marched in the Daffodil Parade in Puyallup, according to Carlson.

“During games, the Raider bird dances and hangs out with the cheerleaders and tries to get the crowd going… pep up the crowd,” says Carlson.

Mascot Ho says he tries to embody the Raider by giving hugs and high fives. He also “flexes his muscle” to flesh out the mascot and add character.

“I love it when people are willing to suspend their disbelief and sort of ‘play along’ with the idea of the Raider bird,” says Ho. “It keeps the magic alive.”

Athletic Director Stevenson observes the mascot in action more than anyone.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing the mascot interacting with little kids,” says Stevenson. “It can be a scary thing, but I think for the most part, they’re really enamored with being next to ‘the bird.’”

That’s what Stevenson calls the Raider mascot; he and “the bird” go way back.

“The college mascot, since its inception, has been ‘the Raider,’” explains Stevenson. “And this goes back to the late 1960s. But for 35 years, we really didn’t have an official mascot character, not even an emblem.”

When Stevenson started working at Pierce in 1987 one of his goals was to get something to be identified as “the Raider.” Students made several efforts through the 1990s to try to get something going, but the review process was so involved.

“Finally, in 2003 to 2004, I was able to get students to initiate a mascot challenge,” says Stevenson. “It was a design contest open to all students.”

They had around 15 submissions; everything from the bird we have now to a mustang, a raccoon, a variation on the Oakland Raiders, and other options, according to Stevenson.

Business student and baseball player Jason Stark won, says Stevenson. Stark had written a backstory on the Raider as a bird who preys on smaller animals and birds for its survival. It was like a falcon.

“’The bird’ was the one!” laughs Stevenson.