Get ready for a Cocky weekend Sept. 15-16
Cocky statue dedication on campus and former mascots gather for reunion
By Megan Sexton, email@example.com, 803-777-1421
You’ve seen the Carolina mascot on the football sidelines, performing for children with Cocky’s Reading Express, firing up the crowd at alumni events and even making appearances at weddings and birthday parties. Soon you’ll be able to see Cocky 24-7 in the heart of campus.
On Sept. 15, a 6-foot-5, 773-pound bronze statue of the beloved mascot will be dedicated in front of Davis College, just off Greene Street next to the Melton Observatory. Cocky is seated on a bench, with one hand raised high with a spurs-up sign. His other hand rests on a stack of books, a nod to Cocky’s role as a literacy leader around the state. Placed on a brick footprint, the statue aligns with other architectural elements in the heart of the historic campus.
The statue, sculpted by Carolina alumnus Robert Allison and paid for with private funds, will provide Gamecock Nation with a place to make a memory and celebrate the Carolina spirit that Cocky embodies. Carolina was the only Southeastern Conference school that did not have a statue of its mascot on campus.
“There is not a week that goes by when people don’t say, ‘Where is that photographic spot on campus, that key place where everybody goes to take a photo?’ We needed a place that prospective students could really begin to make a memory,” says Denise Wellman, director of the university’s Visitor Center and the chief advocate for the Cocky statue on campus. “Cocky is very much a part of our lives. I have found that no matter whether you are 2 years old or 92 years old, people gravitate to Cocky.”
The festivities, which are free and open to the public, start at 4:45 p.m., Sept. 15, on the steps of Davis College, home to the School of Library and Information Science, where Cocky’s Reading Express is based. The literacy program features the Carolina mascot and student volunteers who travel the state in their own bus, visiting elementary schools, reading to students and encouraging literacy. Since 2005, they have handed out more than 116,000 free books to children in every county in South Carolina.
As part of the statue dedication, student volunteers and Cocky will read and act out books for the crowd, and free books will be distributed to children.
“One of the things that makes Cocky worth honoring is the significant role he takes on in the state of South Carolina,” Wellman says. “His signature thing is improving literacy in South Carolina for over 100,000 children. We believe he’s really made a difference through Cocky’s Reading Express. That’s what distinguishes him from a lot of other mascots around the country.”
The formal program begins at 5 p.m. President Harris Pastides will join former mascots, students, fans and the pep band for the celebration as the statue is revealed.
Wellman anticipates the statue, located in the heart of campus and along the prospective student tour route, will become a popular place for Gamecock Nation to make memories.
Along with inviting visitors to take a photo with Cocky as they tour campus, Wellman expects students to return for other important milestones — from move-in to graduation to wedding days.
At least 20 former mascots, including John Routh, the first Cocky who went on to be a professional mascot in Miami, will attend the statue dedication and will gather the following day for a reunion. They’re even letting in their ancestor. Chuck Eaton, the student who dressed as Cocky’s predecessor, Big Spur, from 1978 to 1980, will attend, too. They will be honored on the field during the Sept. 16 football game. You’ll recognize them by their Cocky T-shirts and big yellow feet.
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