posted January 7, 2010

Basketball Fans to Celebrate Birthday of Hope Mascot

Three years ago students at Hope College introduced a new mascot. Since then, "Dutch" has endeared him/herself to Hope fans at athletic contests and other college events.

On Saturday (Jan. 9) fans attending the Hope versus Alma men's basketball game will join mascots from several other west Michigan teams and organizations in celebrating Dutch's third birthday.

The Flying Dutchmen will host Alma in an MIAA game beginning at 3 p.m. at the DeVos Fieldhouse. Because the spring semester at Hope will not have begun, there will be ample general admission tickets available.

"In addition to some great basketball, Saturday is going to be a very family friendly event," said Matthew D'Oyly of the Hope student development staff and Dutch's special advisor.

Fans will be greeted on the concourse by the mascots, including "Grif" from the Grand Rapids Griffins, "Crash" from the West Michigan Whitecaps, "Oven Mit" from Arby's, "Homer" from Home Depot, "Scoopie" from Culvers restaurant, "Kirby the Kangaroo" from the Parda Federal Credit Union, "Chuck E" from Chuck E Cheese's, and "Sparky" from the Holland fire department.

There will be festivities in the varsity pre-game and at halftime. 

Also featured at halftime will be international yo yo sensation and Holland resident Connor Scholten. A yo-youer since he was seven years old, Connor is a graduate of Holland Christian High School, currently a student studying mathematics at Grand Valley State University and one of the best yo-yo performers in the world. Last summer he finished fifth in the combined division at the World Yo Yo Contest in Orlando, Florida.  The competition featured 240 competitors from 24 countries. Connor was the only American among the six finalists.

The first 750 fans arriving for Saturday's game will receive a commemorative yo yo compliments of the Lighthouse Group.

The guest pep band will be from the Grand Rapids Central High School.

MORE ABOUT DUTCH

A new personification of a familiar nickname made its Hope College debut during the 2006-07 school year.

"Dutch," a new mascot developed through the efforts of the college's Student Congress, premiered during the women's and men's basketball seasons.

Although Hope teams are supported enthusiastically not only by fans in general but also by a large association of orange-shirted students known as the "Dew Crew" and the college's cheerleaders, the college has lacked a formal mascot character. Through the years, spirited students have sometimes donned an old-style leather aviator's helmet to represent the "Flying" aspect of the college's "Flying Dutchmen"/"Flying Dutch" nickname; in the middle 1990s, a pair of students in a Hope class had also pursued the idea of developing a mascot, but the character didn't materialize.

The effort to create the new "Dutch" mascot originated in the summer of 2005, led by Lauren Engel, a senior who was student body president, and student vice president Bradley Matson, who has continued to lead the project this year as president himself.

The design chosen for "Dutch" was the winner of an online survey that presented four concepts to the campus community late in 2005. The character is attired in Hope's school colors of orange and blue and wearing wooden shoes, white-bearded visage topped by a billed hat.

For inspiration, Matson noted, the organizers even used a Dutchman as an inspiration. The character's face, he said, is modeled loosely on Bob Bos, an employee in the college's mail room.

The concept and costume were produced by Street Characters Inc. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The company's clients include several NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball teams, a variety of corporations, and multiple other colleges and universities.

The costume is filled by select students on a rotating basis, with the organizers striving to keep the identity of the actors confidential.

"The college's athletic teams have been known as the Dutchmen since the beginning of intercollegiate programs in the early 1900s. Hope, chartered in 1866, is rooted in the early history of Holland, which was settled in the 1840s by immigrants from the Netherlands.

The nickname "Flying Dutchmen" is reported to have been coined by a sports writer covering men's basketball in 1958. In the spring of 1959, the men's team flew more literally, the first Hope team ever to journey to a contest by air, traveling aboard a twin-engined DC-3 to the College Division quarterfinals in Evansville, Ind. The women's teams since the 1970s have been known as the Flying Dutch.

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