The face behind COM's beloved mascot
Though few know her name, Autumn Mason is famous around town – She’s the dynamo behind (or inside) College of the Mainland’s mascot, Comet the Duck. Going to local schools, games and events, she perfectly embodies the role that even her first syllable foreshadowed.
“My first word was ‘duck.’ My family always used to come up and go to the duck pond on campus,” she said.
A COM freshman this fall, she arrived on campus and soon volunteered to personify Comet the Duck.
“I’ve always wanted to be a mascot. My best friend was the mascot in high school,” Mason said.
Mason now divides her time between class and campus and community events from parades to games where she’s become a crowd favorite.
“She’s meant to be a mascot,” said student life director Tige Cornelius, who coordinates her appearances and sometimes helps her navigate crowds. “She’s full of excitement. She’s creative within the suit, doing all of her gestures to get people pumped.”
She recently attended a Dickinson High School homecoming as Comet the Duck with COM recruiter Mary Lou Ortuvia.
“Kids adore her. They think she’s super huggable, even adults,” said Ortuvia. “She had a very positive impact on everybody. That energy’s contagious.”
Transforming into a six-foot, foam-padded ball of energy can be a challenge, Mason admits. Though an agile former high school cheerleader for Dickinson High School, Masen had to adjust to maneuvering in the costume. She often has another staff member or student walk with her to point out obstacles she can’t see.
“I have tunnel vision. It’s like putting two paper towel rolls in front of your head. And then there are big duck feet. That doesn’t help either,” Masen noted. “I get way too excited and start moving faster than I should. I feel so bad for the people I’ve run into. I try to pat them on the back to say, ‘I apologize.’”
Another challenge she tackles is conveying emotion nonverbally.
“Of course the mascot can’t talk. You have a big duck head. You’re relying on movement,” she said. “To laugh, I put my hands on my belly. I’ll tap someone on the shoulder and run away so they know I'm messing with them.”
As people spontaneously embrace her and pose for snapshots, she’s discovered that being the face of the college has its perks.
“It’s opened a lot of doors for me. I meet new people,” she said. “I meet a lot of faculty because I'm messing with them in the mascot suit.”
Some Comet moments remain etched in Mason’s memory.
At one event “a little boy, maybe 1 or 2 years old, came up and hugged me. He (later) came up and hugged me again. He was bawling because I was leaving,” Masen remembered. “That was so cute. It was the most important thing in my day.”
Mason writes to her mascot friend from high school, now in the Navy, to tell of her Comet the Duck adventures.
“I give a lot of credit to him. He told me what works and what doesn’t,” she said.
Mason is currently pursuing a general studies associate degree in preparation for earning a bachelor’s degree in education. Planning a future as a kindergarten teacher, she aims to transfer some of her enthusiasm and mascot skills to the classroom. “Maybe on certain days I’ll dress up in an animal costume if we’re studying them,” she added.