Lions and tigers and bears, oh my

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By Rebecca DeSensi

When Assistant Superintendent Rick McHargue served as Buckner Elementary School’s first principal, he was charged with creating the icon that would serve as the school’s mascot.

“We put a lot of thought and effort into selecting the bear as the mascot for Buckner,” McHargue said.

But not just any bear would do.

“I wanted the right bear, one that was appealing to children and who didn’t look too ferocious,” he said.

After researching images of bears, McHargue settled on a familiar icon, UCLA’s “Joe Bear.” But McHargue would come to find that UCLA didn’t share Joe with other schools, even a small elementary school in Kentucky. He called UCLA to see what he would need to do to use Joe as the mascot.

“When they directed me to their trademark and licensing attorney, I realized we weren’t going to be able to use his likeness,” McHargue said.

He tried to explain his rationale, but was told by UCLA’s attorney that if the college came to town to play against the University of Louisville, they would want fans to recognize the bear as the college’s mascot, not the elementary school’s.

So it was back to the drawing board, literally. UCLA’s attorney suggested that McHargue find several features of different bears he liked, and commission an artist to draw their own unique bear. McHargue approached Buckner’s art teacher, Lisa Cheek, who currently serves as Buckner’s principal, to help draw the bear.

After several renditions, Cheek drew a bear to everyone’s liking and students had the chance to vote and submit ideas for the mascot’s name. Administrators compiled a top 10 and sent the list to students to pick. The students selected “Buddy Bear” and McHargue and his team began putting Buddy’s likeness throughout the school.

Locust Grove Elementary School’s Principal MariAnn Arnold was enlisted to determine the mascot for the newest elementary school in the district.

“I wanted to stay in line with the animal theme, because all of the other elementary schools have mascots that are animals,” Arnold said. “But I could not figure out what to pick.”

After consulting her daughter’s collection of Build-A-Bear animals, Arnold first toyed with the idea of a rabbit. But that quickly got dismissed. She was searching for Build-A-Bear animals on e-bay and came across a lion.

“It was perfect,” she said.

The school’s media specialist hunted for one to use as the mascot. So Arnold went about purchasing the rights to the likeness of their new mascot, with a little tweaking, due to some suggestions from the staff. They added drooping whiskers and changed the lion’s eye color.

“We were looking at him and (Facilities Manager) Jim Ewalt said, ‘I think he will be a good mascot, he’s a good little Grover.’ And so our mascot’s name became Grover,” Arnold said.

Locust Grove’s Grover and Buckner’s Buddy Bear are just two of the many mascots in Oldham County that tell unique stories about the personality of the Oldham County school district.

At Kenwood Station Elementary, the colors came first. Principal Phillip more said when he talked to the facilities director about the school, they mentioned they were working on an orange and navy color scheme.

“So I thought of other schools with that color scheme, and went to Auburn University’s Web site for inspiration,” he said.

After doing a bit of research, and thinking about orange naturally being associated with tigers, Moore decided on the tiger for Kenwood’s mascot. Moore then asked the architect of the school to draw Kenwood Station’s representation of a tiger.

“I wanted something that was going to make Kenwood stand out and be strong, but also something that would be respectable and loveable,” he said.

Kenwood hosted a contest to name the tiger last year, and “Stripes” was the winning name.