The cow, the superhero, the swan, etc. Sometimes all that has to be said is one word to get a CONA delegate to immediately think of a specific delegation. These symbols, some old and some new, can seem baffling to others outside of the state. The mascots may sometimes seem trivial, but are a source of pride for delegations that they represent.
As the newest of symbols at CONA, the ‘superhero’ was unveiled even to the Floridians just last Saturday. Calling people ‘superhero’ had been a running joke in the delegation, and with Presiding Officer Derek Summerville being from Florida, it all seemed to fit. Florida delegates can sometimes be seen in cape and bandana.
The delegation from New York is also notable for their lobster. A favorite last year, they forgot to bring it this session. Taking its place instead is Justice the Duck. Dressed as the Statue of Liberty and bearing a gavel on his wing, he is a symbol of the state’s strong judicial program.
Another well know mascot is that of Minnesota, Swany The Swan. A literal plastic swan, it was given as a gag gift to Orville Lindquist, Minnesota Advisor. “After sitting in the closet for 10 years, we brought it along to the national affairs retreat on year,” Lindquist said. “After that it just became part of us.” Swany was the victim of an infamous kidnapping at CONA 2007, but was recovered after a few days with a ‘negotiated surrender.’
For years now, Alabama t-shirts have featured Bob McGaughey in some way. McGaughey, conference director, is a native of Alabama and advisor to the state delegation. This year’s features a graphic of McGaughey as Bob the Builder, building Alabama’s families.
There is perhaps no symbol more strongly associated with a state delegation than Wisconsin and the Cow, a symbol of Wisconsin’s dominance in dairy. No one knows how long it has existed, however Dave Wyeth, advisor and CONA alumnus, said it was already well-established in his day, the 1996 conference. It has been the subject of intense rivalries and elaborate schemes to both protect and steal it. “The goal is either to abscond with the cow or to deflate the cow,” Wyeth said. When asked of the fate of the cow in his year, Wyeth said, “it didn’t make it.” The cow recently made its 2008 debut Sunday night and at the Monday morning picture.
Few things draw more pride from a delegation than a mascot. Whether old or new, obvious or unusual, all get the same esteem. Perhaps inevitably, there is also no greater target for delegation rivalries.