By Danielle Blondin
Fitchburg State would just not be the same without Freddy the Falcon jumping out around every corner during the University’s athletic games and recruitment events. As it turns out, more work goes into preparing Freddy than you might think. The current Fitchburg State student who doubles as Freddy the Falcon – and must remain anonymous for obvious reasons – said that anyone who wants to be Freddy “must be in good physical shape, and probably have some sort of athletic background. There are days when it gets really hot inside the suit and you’ve got to be able to handle it for a couple of hours. Good conditioning is needed.”
Even if you can survive for hours in a non-air-conditioned falcon suit, having an engaging personality is also part of the job description. Says the anonymous Freddy, “This is who I am as a person. I just amplify a few of my own characteristics and dance around, no biggie. The biggest part of it is just having a personality that is highly animated, energetic, charismatic and fun.” He added with a laugh, “That’s what mascots are.”
If you’ve ever attended an athletic game or worked a recruitment event, you’ve no doubt witnessed Freddy’s antics for yourself. Really, what Fitchburg State student doesn’t have a selfie with Freddy on their phone? “I get a lot of photo requests from people, that’s fun,” Freddy said. “Usually I’m the one coming up with or doing things that are crazy and odd; it could be trying to crowd surf in the stands – which never works, but one day – or starting a wave, riding a bike … whatever my crazy spontaneous mind can come up with, I will try to do … at least once.” Recently, however, a Fitchburg State student’s younger family member gave Freddy a run for his money. “I had a little girl challenge me to do backflips and all sorts of somersaults,” he said. “I mean, I can do a one-handed cartwheel … but this girl had to be a cheerleader or a gymnast or a Power Ranger or something, – and for me, that’s just not happening.”
Unbeknownst to much of the Fitchburg State community, tryouts – which are really more like auditions – to rock the falcon suit take place every few years, during which time prospects can briefly become Freddy the Falcon and show the Recreation Center staff what they’ve got. However, the current Freddy has been so successful with the crowds that Sue Lauder, Fitchburg State’s athletic director, has yet to search out a replacement. “Freddy does such a good job and gets great responses from the crowds, so we have been able to keep him for a few years,” Lauder said. “We watch during the events to see if there are things we need to have him do more or less of, and make sure that people are receptive to what he does.”
Though Freddy says that he would love to travel with the athletic teams to support the Falcons at other universities, his primary domain is here on the Fitchburg State campus. “I do not travel with teams, unfortunately. I totally would if I could; I think it would be great to go to an away game and get booed by the audience,” Freddy said. Usually, Freddy is easily spotted at Fitchburg State’s football games and open houses, and this past year he convinced the athletics department to let him attend basketball games as well. “The basketball games were fun,” he said, “and the crowd is indeed different [from the football games].”
For Lauder, getting the right student in the falcon suit to bring Freddy to life is only half the battle. “My first job is to actually find a suit that we think will project the image we want,” Lauder said. With a laugh, she added, “We don’t want anything that will scare young children.” In a nutshell, she is looking for a falcon suit that embodies all the values that Fitchburg State holds near and dear, including school spirit, family and – of course – fun. “We have to, and want to, create a fun aspect for the suit,” Lauder said.
The current Freddy agrees that fun is the real key here. “Let’s just say this – when the people who know me best found out that I was going to be the mascot, they were not surprised at all,” he says. “That’s just who I am.”