The Sparks that Led to Our "Blaze"

by Abigail W., Concordia Applied Journalism

For both young and old the sight of a mascot’s colorful wings, bright eyes and captivating dance can heighten the frenzy of a sporting moment in a truly memorable way. Can you remember experiencing the roar of a crowd or hearing the squeal of kids who were not expecting to see a real life stuffed toy before their very eyes? Oh, the mascot - what a role to play!

Blaze is captured mid-air, stirring the Concordia spirit by getting the crowd shouting with joy for the schools team!  (image: Daniel Mendes)

Blaze is captured mid-air, stirring the Concordia spirit by getting the crowd shouting with joy for the schools team! (image: Daniel Mendes)

Did you know that the word mascot in French means, “a person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck or is used to symbolize a particular event?” Clearly, being able to symbolize your company or school in such a way is not a small task.

The mascot most central to our own community must surely be Concordia’s own, “Blaze,” the phoenix. The fun and animated Blaze brings to our Phoenix Fridays and all-school assemblies unmatched value. It’s compelling to literally see school spirit take form and run around the gym! What a sight, what a job, and what a symbol of value our mascot truly is.

A little historical sleuthing reveals that Blaze’s phoenix form was chosen for its mythical quality of being able to rise from the ashes. This is something that Concordia’s early community found admirable and applicable to the school’s values. Even the official colors blue, gold, and white have been incorporated from head to toe.

Kelly Jo Larson, a familiar face in Concordia’s marketing and communications department, is able to fill in the Blaze story. Ms. Larson credits the “booster parents,” as it was their hard work and vision for Blaze that made him come alive in the form that he is seen in today.

“Originally the booster parents used the profits from the hotdogs, popcorn and sweets and bought Concordia sports bags for all of the athletes each year. But the benefit was limited to a few students,” Ms Larson recalls. “They decided they wanted to do something for the whole community that would have a lasting impact.” This was done by investing in the blaze mascot.

Concordia’s Blaze, seen in a victory dance, is adorned in the official colors of the school.  (image: Brian Lavender)

Concordia’s Blaze, seen in a victory dance, is adorned in the official colors of the school. (image: Brian Lavender)

Clearly a Phoenix fan!  (image: Brian Lavender)

Clearly a Phoenix fan! (image: Brian Lavender)

The idea of having a mascot was inspired by Concordia sister organization, Hong Kong International School. The student council of the late 1990s looked to the mystical and magical HKIS dragon. Even when given the option to chose between a bear, tiger, bulldog, or a bat, the phoenix arose as the ideal selection. Once the form of Concordia mascot was selected, it was up to the school’s art class to draw this phoenix as best they could. The scope of this competition required the whole school’s involvement in 2003 through a careful selection process.

Showing that blaze is a product of both Chinese and Western culture, these early conceptual images demonstrate the consideration for our school diversity.  (image supplied)

Showing that blaze is a product of both Chinese and Western culture, these early conceptual images demonstrate the consideration for our school diversity. (image supplied)

This student drawing was advanced to the final rounds of judging in the earlier years of Concordia.  (image supplied)

This student drawing was advanced to the final rounds of judging in the earlier years of Concordia. (image supplied)

This early concept drawing is clearly leading to the Blaze that we’re familiar with today. (image supplied)

This early concept drawing is clearly leading to the Blaze that we’re familiar with today. (image supplied)

With the visual development of the phoenix well on its way, Ms. Larson says that the next most important task was to bring this phoenix to life by giving it a name. “Once given a name it was almost as if he became a person in a sense,” recalls Ms. Larson. “Kids would look up at him as if he were real.” But who is actually inside our familiar feathery figure? Ms Larson has known the majority of the Blaze performers over the years but she insists “the best ones never tell!”

For whenever we step out on to the court, track, stage, field, or into the classroom we look to our mascots to represent our team’s ideal qualities. But what would it look like to have our own personal mascot? This idea was so intriguing, that a few high school students took up the challenge of drawing of what they thought their lives represented by a mascot would look like. (See the video on this page called Drawing your life’s Mascot.)

Their efforts revealed a certain joy as they pondered the qualities and visual characteristics their “mascot” would convey. It was evident that the creation of a mascot is something of enduring value, for the finished products often suggested deeper meanings that are infused with great feeling, memory, emotion or a sense of place. The mascots as a “living,” representation are an artistic expression that allows us to embody our schools, jobs, sport teams, and much more. Mascots are in this way alive, and truly have more value then we even realize. In the past, the word mascot was connected with non-living objects such as, “ships masks, or locks of hair.” According to the International University Sports Federation, mascots as we currently know them were introduced to sport in the 19th century as live animals meant to invoke fear in the apposing team. They also proved entertaining for the spectators.

The World Cup's mascots are an unforgettable part of each year. In this picture we see the variation of these mascots throughout the years.

The World Cup's mascots are an unforgettable part of each year. In this picture we see the variation of these mascots throughout the years.

From these early days, it is now globally understood that mascots are often an essential part of any unified group. Indeed, most people can no longer think of a team, festival, or even a school, without associating the face its mascot.

A curious bird: Blaze is seen during a playful moment with Assistant Head of School Ms. Petersen with Early Childhood Principal Mr. Gerdes.  (image: Brian Lavender)

A curious bird: Blaze is seen during a playful moment with Assistant Head of School Ms. Petersen with Early Childhood Principal Mr. Gerdes. (image: Brian Lavender)

In a world dominated by graphic and visual communication, the role of the mascot will only increase. Mascots have the ability to inspire real change within the world, as in the story of two high schools in the US. These two schools were to play each other in a football champion ship. What stood out about even above the match was the frenzied discussion around the team mascots. In a show of social consciousness, the players, coaches, and viewers, all held up pictures of their team’s mascots and posted it online for wildlife conservation with the hashtag: “#protectourmascot.” The Alabama elephants and Clemson tigers used their mascot to represent an even bigger cause as they hoped their audience would sympathize with the familiar characters. One student who was present stated, “[d]espite our differences on the field, we can all agree that we love our mascots and want to protect them in the wild before it’s too late.”

Certainly, the importance of a mascot to rally a community - even a global one - is not to be underestimated.

References:

“Furry Animals, Fuzzy Science: Can School Mascots Help Conservation?” Undark, undark.org/article/school-college-mascots-conservation/.

“FISU Mascots.” Mascots, www.fisu.net/about-fisu/fisu-brand/mascots.

“Concordia International School Shanghai: American Education in Jinqiao.” Coffee Roasters Third Culture the Story, www.concordiashanghai.org/.

Related: Be sure to watch the video that Daniel Mendes made for Concordia International School Shanghai’s 20th Anniversary.


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Abigail W., Concordia Applied Journalism

As a proud South African, I'm living my life in Shanghai, China while soaking up the culture and beauty around me. I love art, along with the art of story telling, and seeing things out of the box! 

Concordia Shanghai