September 8th 1968 marked the opening of what was to become an international event: the Festival Western de St-Tite.
The idea for me simmered for a few years in what I like to call the collective unconscious of the Festival administrators… The Festival was gaining in popularity in the Mauricie region as well as in the strange and specialized world of rodeos, cowboys and everything that goes with them.
A mascot is a visual representation of something; a visual representative of an event. In the same way the festival evolves, my character also grows and has transformed, become animated, has adjusted and evolved to become what I am now. Let me tell you my story…
Who better than a cowboy, in the spirit of the heroes of the rodeo grandstands, to represent the Festival Western? What I like to call the “cowboy period” marked the beginning of my family tree.
In 1986, the first of my lineage became a part of the Festival Western de St-Tite. His name was Poncho and he was a cowboy… probably one of the first mascots to represent a cowboy. I’m pretty certain that his name came from the Western movies that were very popular at the time.
His head was made from fibreglass. In hindsight, that may have been the reason for his short life. What could be more uncomfortable than wearing a fibreglass head all day and every day for two weeks? Poncho wore traditional cowboy clothing, including blue jeans, a black shirt, a bandana, a cowboy hat and boots. Jeans have been a cowboy favourite forever, because they last so long. Poncho was a life-sized replicate of a real cowboy.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do… In this case, when in the Far West, wear a six-shooter. Poncho was the only member of my family tree to wear a gun.
In 1987, Galop became the new face of the Festival, and replaced Poncho as mascot in chief. The name change from Poncho to Galop better reflected our Quebecois culture. For the second generation mascot, the head was made from paper maché. It was bigger yet lighter and maintained its human look. Changes to the costume included the addition of a waistcoat and a different coloured shirt. The hat took on the Festival’s colour scheme and proudly displayed the Festival logo. In keeping with the mascot theme, the size of the boots and the jeans was also increased.
The third character of my generation appeared in 1992. This ancestor’s mascot head had a longer face, a huge smile, and darker hair. He proudly wore a hat clearly identified with his name. Chaps and cowboy gloves also became part of his costume. In keeping with the cowboy clothing of the times, he wore faded jeans and a red shirt complete with fringes.
With his new image, Galop was ready to play an even more important role in the Festival which was also making serious gains in popularity.
A more snugly Galop ushered in the transition to the 21st century version of the Festival. In keeping with Y2K mascots, Galop’s persona transformed to become more festive, plumper and plusher. He also introduced the new Festival logo. His face was chubbier and covered with freckles and his child-like smile revealed the tip of his tongue. His large and expressive eyes now wobble and wiggle to match his every move, and a huge cowboy hat with the Festival logo covers his golden hair. A new plush “fat suit” covering both arms and legs makes the giant-sized handshake a really fluffy experience!
I am the fifth in line of mascots and I appeared on the scene in 2007 during the 40th edition of the Festival.
My “plush toy” appearance is more refined and my face has become more and more expressive and has softer lines. Also, my eyes don’t wobble any more! My hair is lighter, which seems to make me even more handsome… My cowboy roots show in my checkered cowboy shirt with my name written on my sleeve. My bandana is still red and I now keep my dark blue denim jeans up with an amazing belt buckle that proudly displays the Festival logo.
My hat is royal blue and my cowboy boots are the finishing touch to my outfit. Depending on what’s going on during the Festival, I also choose among a yellow leather waistcoat, an orange-coloured padded vest (my “softie”), a raincoat and chaps (for special occasions).
I’m now a bigger part of official outings of all kinds, and also more recreational activities. No matter what the occasion is, I love meeting all my fans as part of my official functions.
I participate in the horse-pulled parade, including three appearances on horseback. In 2010 I got to ride in a special buggy with my very young friends! Sometimes I’m even the flag bearer during the rodeo opening ceremonies, and I appear at the grandstand.
I often accompany the Festival president and the various directors to the various important functions. I also get to travel to different cities to proudly promote the Festival Western de St-Tite.
The Festival is now a world-renowned event, and my dream is to be able to represent and promote the Festival in other countries.
It is a wonderful and awesome festival and a real western festival… I am extremely proud to be the mascot and ambassador for this event!
Being a mascot is amazing! My life is full of unforeseen events, ups and downs, but especially awesome encounters. I wouldn’t trade places for anything in the world!
I’m looking forward to meeting you here, which is home to me, at the Festival Western de St-Tite!