TEA Connect Blog

29 March 2019

TEA explores new Mascot Hall of Fame in March 2019 - Clara Rice reports

It was an unFURgettable evening at the Mascot Hall of Fame Interactive Children’s Museum (MHOF) in Whiting, Indiana: a "Behind the Fur" event organized by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Eastern North America Division on March 28, 2019.

Report from
Clara Rice

More than two dozen TEA members attended and were treated to food, drink, and plenty of playtime in a space the Chicago Tribune recently hailed as “colorful,” “charming,” and “surprisingly sleek” and that Smithsonian Magazine ranked as “one of the most exciting museums to open in 2019.” It just so happened that group arrived on a momentous day, as the MHOF enjoyed its highest one-day attendance since its soft opening in December 2018.

The 25,000-square-foot MHOF was created to engage, educate, and entertain fans, school groups and visitors through innovative, interactive, mascot-themed exhibits. Formerly an online-only organization, the dream of making the MHOF a brick-and-mortar reality happened during a serendipitous phone call between former Phillie Phanatic mascot, David Raymond, and Joe Stahura, Mayor of the City of Whiting, Indiana.

The Chicagoland town was already known for its popular annual Pierogi Festival and turned out to be the perfect quirky location for Raymond’s equally eccentric project. “Five years ago, I first got a call from the City of Whiting, and my first question was, ‘well, why Whiting?'” says Raymond. “And now I have my answer, and it’s this amazing place that came from that original bold idea from the Mayor, that this was right for their city.”

Raymond served as keynote speaker for the TEA’s “Behind the Fur” event, offering attendees a segment of his motivational speech “The Power of Fun.” In it, he explained how his “brilliant stupidity” and “supercharged creativity” became the fuel for one of the most beloved mascots in American sports history. He explained that fun is a force that can be applied anywhere in the world, transcending language barriers and cultural differences. And he challenged the group to conquer their “negative brain biases,” assuring them that “happiness is a skill you can attain through practice.”

Doug Peer, Mayor Stahura, Dave Raymond and Clara Rice
speak about the new Mascot Hall of Fame children's museum
at a special TEA "Behind the Fur" event on 3/28/19.
See many more photos at this link

Following the keynote, the MHOF creative team participated in a panel discussion about what went into creating this fuzz-filled family fun zone. Moderated by TEA NextGen Chair Marissa Blake of Shedd Aquarium, the panel included Raymond, Mayor Stahura, MHOF Executive Director Orestes Hernandez, Chicago Scenic Studios’ Doug Peer, and JRA Communications Director Clara Rice, VP of the TEA International Board of Directors.

After the panel reflected on the museum’s genesis, process, and impact, Hernandez proclaimed his own “bold idea” for the future of the Mascot Hall of Fame: “On the museum side, [the vision] is to elevate us to a point where we’re considered one of the top ten children’s museums in the country…and on the Hall of Fame side, the character side, I want it to be considered on the same level and spoken about in the same sentence as Cooperstown and Canton, Ohio – the professional hall of fames.” Upcoming events include a Mascot Boot Camp, the museum’s Grand Opening Celebration, and what promises to be their biggest annual extravaganza – the Mascot Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Caption

In addition to spurring economic development for Whiting, honoring mascots, and creating memorable outings for families, Hernandez feels that the MHOF’s greatest success has been its ability to shift attitudes about what a museum can be. “People who come here expecting a hall of fame think they’re going to see something stodgy and reverent. People who come here expecting a children’s museum think they’re going to see something cutesy and juvenile. We never try to address these preconceived notions before they get here. But we sure love blowing them out of the water when the guest walks through these doors.”

Special thanks to TEA Eastern North America Division Board President Melissa Ruminot of The Companies of Nassal, for coordinating the event and to Mascot Hall of Fame for hosting. Special thanks also to the event sponsors – the MHOF creative team of JRA (planning, design, project management, art direction), Chicago Scenic Studios (exhibit fabrication), Electrosonic (AV integration) and Trivium Interactive (interactive media production).

See more photos from this event: click here

 

 

 

 

Posted by Judy Rubin

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