West Linn prowling for a new COWL the Owl mascot
The suit is hot and sweaty. Vision is less than optimal. Even basic movements can be difficult and require a handler.
Those are just a few of the challenges associated with life as COWL the Owl — West Linn's official mascot since 2015. But City staff members who have donned the suit at various events say there's plenty of fun associated with it, too, and West Linn is now looking for a volunteer to carry on the mascot tradition at this summer's special events.
"We've never really had anyone dedicated to it," Recreation Coordinator Terri Jones said. "It was kind of the short straw — someone from each department would do it. I've been COWL on occasion."
It became a simple issue of availability for staff members, thus leading to the call for volunteers.
"We have such a small staff that at events, we can't dedicate a staff person to being in costume," Jones said. "There's some time involved in changing in and out of the suit, and we're all working. So at the events we've most wanted to have a mascot, we couldn't because we didn't have the staffing."
Jones, who once played COWL during an aerobics class at the West Linn Adult Community Center, will rely on personal experience to decide who is best to play the role.
"It has to be someone who can handle the physical demands of being a mascot," she said. "And you have to be enthusiastic. You have to like kids, because they'll hug you and will be hanging on you."
When the City first introduced its mascot in May 2015, it arrived at the name COWL the Owl as a play on the abbreviation for "City of West Linn." Since then, COWL has earned its own Facebook page, sat on a police motorcycle and appeared at a slew of events like the Old Time Fair, the Street Dance and the Daddy-Daughter Dance.
"One person (appearing as COWL) from high school did a dance-off with the high school lion mascot at the Street Dance," Jones said. "You have to be demonstrative, because you can't speak so it's all physical gestures that communicate with people."
She added, however, that "we're not going to ask anyone to do anything crazy — not jumping on a trampoline or slam dunks or anything. Just give hugs to kids."
Jones said that prospective mascots should be at least of high school age, and the hope is that they would appear at each of the summer's most popular events.
"Ideally we would have someone by (the time of) the Daddy-Daughter Dance, which is June 16," Jones said. "And then things really take off from there."