The City of Whiting was very much alive Wednesday evening as community members came together to celebrate the newly erected Mascot Hall of Fame at the first annual FurTie Fundraiser. The night raised funds for the museum and showcased the building to the business community. Many sponsors, supporters, and business owners from all over Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland got their first glimpse of the interactive museum that will be a crucial contributor to Whiting’s growth in years to come.
The atmosphere was filled with fun and vibrant energy from the moment the night began, making it impossible to not be excited about the new museum. After five years of hard work to make this dream a reality, Mayor Joe Stahura of Whiting was thrilled, to say the least.
“We’ve put a lot of focus on developing tourism-related amenities to attract new visitors to our community,” said Mayor Stahura. “With the addition of the Mascot Hall of Fame, the City of Whiting, a city with 5,000 residents and only 1.9 square miles in size, may attract a million visitors in 2019.”
Mayor Stahura has received an abundance of support from the community regarding this project, including that of Karen Lauerman, President and CEO of the Lake County Indiana Economic Alliance.
“Quality of life and attracting talent and business to the region is an important factor for economic development,” said Lauerman. “So with Mayor Stahura’s vision, we were easily able to support what he wanted to do. It’s a part of a bigger vision for bringing jobs and investment to Lake County and Northwest Indiana. We’re the little city by the lake; if you can do it here you can do it anywhere!”
From the project’s early stages up until its completion, the question of ‘Why Whiting?’ has been asked countless times. Former Phillie Phanatic and founder of the Mascot Hall of Fame, David Raymond, had an answer to that question that no one could deny.
“This is a beautiful, magical place that belongs in Whiting, Indiana,” said Raymond. “Whiting has been celebrating the power of fun for decades; it understands the value of being a little wacky and a little silly, and if you don’t believe me just come to Pierogi Fest!”
The City of Whiting radiates a spirit of fun and childlike energy that comes alive during celebrations such as Wickedly Whiting and Pierogi Fest. The Mascot Hall of Fame shares these same qualities, making Whiting the perfect home for the museum.
“The mayor, his staff, and the citizens of Whiting recognize with integrity, intention, and ferocity that family fun is going to be part of their legacy and growth, and will help them move beyond for decades to come,” Raymond said. “I’ll tell you why Whiting – it’s the only place on the planet that could do it right.”
After opening remarks from Mayor Stahura and several key contributors to the creation of the museum, attendees were treated to an all-out dance party with several mascot friends, including Southpaw of the Chicago White Socks, Purdue Pete of Purdue University, and Tommy Hawk of the Chicago Blackhawks.
While everyone in attendance certainly had a fantastic time enjoying food, dance, and entertainment from all the exhibits, the night touched on a sentimental note for some. Shari LeMonnier, wife to the late Daniel LeMonnier, who served as Benny the Bull for 18 years, was in attendance with her daughter, Claire, and son, Flynn.
“This is really a wonderful honor to all the mascots, and especially to my late husband,” said LeMonnier. “To see all his things here from when he did his antics is so special. It’s really precious to see his uniform displayed here.”
“It was such a big part of our lives growing up,” added LeMonnier’s daughter, Claire, “so it’s nice that now there’s a place other folks can come and see all the silliness that was pretty normal for us. It’s actually pretty fantastic.”
The museum features gift shops with 100 custom products, a custom Build-A-Bear Workshop where guests can create their own miniature version of their favorite mascot, and countless interactive exhibits that will keep guests of all ages entertained for hours.
Although the Mascot Hall of Fame will not officially open until December 26, it will be hosting several media days from December 20-22 to give media outlets a chance to get some key coverage of the museum before it opens to the public. These media days will also be open to local school teachers and administration.
“We wanted to open it up to school administrators and teachers because Mascot Hall of Fame will be a key place to bring students for field trips,” said Amy Frets, Director of Communications and Marketing. “It’s full of fun on an average day, however, it was built with educational components in mind, and has a curriculum built around all of the exhibits from kindergarten all the way up to middle school.”
There’s no doubt that the Mascot Hall of Fame will change the skyline of Whiting forever. It will encourage all who visit it to play and embrace the idea that, in the words of David Raymond, “it’s okay, and even vital to be a little silly and a little wacky every now and then.”
To learn more about the Mascot Hall of Fame, visit its website at mascothalloffame.com.