MOUNT VERNON — Have you ever been challenged to take a dare? Most people probably have at some time or other, but many do not take that dare. Well, Sarah Newcomer of Mount Vernon once took a dare, and it has certainly paid off in a big way.
“I was on the cheerleading squad at Mount Vernon High School when some friends on the squad dared me to try out for ‘Sting, the Bee,’ the school’s mascot,” said Newcomer. “When I tried out, nobody else showed up, so I became the new ‘Sting.’” Little did Newcomer know that a career as a professional mascot would soon follow.
Newcomer was “Sting” during her sophomore and senior years of high school, appearing mainly at football and basketball games, which led to her being voted as “Most School Spirited” in her senior class.
After high school came Ohio University where Newcomer asked if she could be the OU “Bobcat.” And the school obliged. She entertained as the Bobcat for one year before transferring to The Ohio State University her sophomore year. “I thought about auditioning for ‘Brutus Buckeye,’ but thought it might interfere with my studies, so I decided not to,” said Newcomer.
But her days of being an entertainer and mascot had only begun. “I then became an independent contractor,” said Newcomer, “appearing wherever people needed me.” Sarah created a website to promote her talent and started getting calls. She attended Mascot Bootcamp, conducted by Dave Raymond, the original “Philly Phanatic,” to sharpen her skills. She was a talent staffing coordinator for a mascot talent staffing agency; and has now performed as more than 100 characters, with the most frequent stints being “Tony the Tiger” and “Dugout,” the mascot of The Little League World Series from which she recently returned this past week for the fourth straight year.
“I do it because I love it,” said Newcomer about her many mascot appearances. “I love being with the kids and seeing their faces light up. I also enjoy going to hospitals, visiting the kids and watching them smile.”
But it’s not always fun and games. “You do get some negative reactions from some people,” said Newcomer, who explained that she’s been slammed in the head, punched in the kidney, and even touched and grabbed inappropriately. “The costumes can sometimes be heavy, and they’re almost always about 10 degrees hotter than the current temperature.”
Many times a mascot handler appears with the mascot to help out and even protect at times. “I’ve learned to pick up body cues, knowing how a child is going to react to me,” she said. “You have to know how to act in costume. It takes a lot of reactionary measures, working with the kids as well as working with your mascot handler.”
And this job is certainly not for everyone. “You have to be in good shape,” she said, adding that she is competing in a triathlon in September to keep herself fit. “It’s a really athletic job. It takes a toll on your body; and I will probably try to do this as long as my body says it’s OK.”
One job Sarah currently holds is performing as “Mr. Sunny” for WSNY, Sunny 95 radio in Columbus. She has written the character performance manual, handled the character’s facebook page, does character photo/event updates for the station website and has been involved in station promotions since 2007.
As fun as this all sounds, it’s not all that keeps Sarah busy. “I also work at SOS Spay/Neuter Clinic in Columbus,” she said. Sarah holds a degree in psychology from OSU and claims she wants to be an animal trainer.
But performing as an animal or some other character is something she’s not willing to give up yet. “It’s great because you get paid to act goofy, and nobody knows who you are,” said Sarah. Many people have probably seen Sarah in some role and didn’t realize it was her. Of the many characters in her repertoire other than those earlier mentioned, she has appeared as the “Pink Panther” for Owens-Corning, “Road Runner” for Time-Warner Cable, “Littlefoot” at the White House Easter Egg Roll, “Clifford” the Big Red Dog, “Garfield,” “Scooby Doo,” “Magic the Dragon” for Magic Mountain, “Red Robin” for Red Robin Restaurants, “Toucan Sam” for Wal-Mart, “Iggle the Eagle” for Giant Eagle grocery stores, a “Blackberry Pearl” at a Las Vegas electronics show and locally as “Recyclo-Bull” for the Knox County Litter Prevention program, among many others. She currently is hoping on landing a job with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Sarah has also appeared at Sea World, Cedar Point, the first annual Food Network awards ceremony and on ESPN dancing with teams on their field. “Each one is different,” said Sarah of the many characters she has appeared as. “You have to be available for a lot of advertising spots. It’s a lot of ‘meet and greet’ and PR stuff.”
Sarah’s job must be a lot of fun and enjoyable for many reasons. “It’s a lot of work. I’m hoping it’s something I can always do,” she said.