Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Voting for Minnesota’s most unique high school mascot & insights into other team names in our state February 26, 2013

A gym at Wabasso High School, home of the Rabbits. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A gym at Wabasso High School, home of the Rabbits. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

MY ALMA MATER, Wabasso High School, has a white rabbit as a mascot. As you would rightly expect, a rabbit does not conjure up an image of athletic prowess. But I do not care. Rabbits reflects the name of the community, Wabasso, a Dakota word, I’m told, meaning “White Rabbit.”

The rabbit mascot also stands out among all the Eagles and Tigers, the most common high school team names in Minnesota, and the country in general, according to Terry Borning, author of MascotDB.com, a free searchable database of team names and mascots. (More on that later.)

Rabbits, though, was not unusual enough to grab the attention of USA TODAY’s High School Sports staff which is sponsoring a competition to find the nation’s most unique high school mascots. Staff chose five mascots from each state and Washington D.C. in the first round of the contest.

Tom Ressler created Blooming Prairie's logo, a black-and-white Awesome Blossom , in 1979.

The Awesome Blossoms logo from the school website.

Now the public will choose their favorites, via online voting, to advance to the second round. One winner from each state and D.C. will move on to regionals and the opportunity to win prizes ranging from $100 to $2,000 for their high school athletic departments.

In the running from Minnesota are the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms, Roosevelt Teddies, Jordan Hubmen, Sauk Centre Mainstreeters and Winona Winhawks.

I’ll admit to a fondness for Blooming Prairie’s Awesome Blossoms, for several reasons. Any school strong enough to sport the name Blossoms deserves to win. Second, Blooming Prairie, a farming community of around 2,000 located 15 miles south of Owatonna, is the smallest of the Minnesota communities vying for this honor. I will always pick the smallest, most rural town and root for the underdog. (Plus, I really like the “Prairie” part of the town’s name.) Third, my second daughter first introduced me to the Blooming Prairie mascot when she was in high school and attended an Awesome Blossoms basketball game with a good friend. It was also the first night she failed to get home at a reasonable hour. Enough said on that.

Apparently, the Blossoms got their name from an area newspaper more than a century ago, according to one source. “Awesome” was later added by locals.

A seen from Main Street in Sauk Centre, home to the Mainstreeters.

A scene from Main Street in Sauk Centre, home to the Mainstreeters. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Now, if I had to choose my second favorite from the Minnesota five, I’d select the Mainstreeters for the sole reason that I love Sauk Centre native Sinclair Lewis’ satirical book, Main Street.

So there, if this interests you, click here and go online to vote. Voting for the state winners continues through March 5. Those 51 winners then advance to second round regional voting from March 6 -14. Six regional winners then enter the finals March 15-25.

Terry Borning with TC Bear, the Twins mascot.

Terry Borning with TC Bear, the Twins mascot. Borning attended Concordia College in Moorhead, home of the Cobbers.

NOW, LET’S DELVE DEEPER into Minnesota high school mascot names via Terry Borning of the earlier mentioned MascotDB.com. Just a note, Borning, of Billings, Montana, and a computer science adjunct faculty member for an Arizona college, is my cousin. He has 43,799 sports team names and mascots in his database covering U.S. and Canadian high school, college and professional teams, past and present.

Borning’s interest in team names stretches back to high school, when he played nine-man football for the Hendricks Huskies. Hendricks is about as close as you can get to South Dakota in southwestern Minnesota without actually living in our neighboring state.

Hendricks and nearby rival Ivanhoe have since consolidated, becoming the Lincoln H I Rebels. Lincoln references Lincoln County where the schools are located while the “H” and “I,” obviously, stand for the separate communities. Adds Borning: “The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were a dominant NCAA basketball team at the time the schools consolidated in the early 1990s. The teens of that time considered themselves rebellious, so the moniker fit.”

That led me to ask my cousin how schools choose mascots and to specifically cite examples in Minnesota. He notes the popularity of Vikings here (11 high schools with this mascot) and the once common Warriors and Indians (no longer used), plus names like the Flying Dutchmen, all traced to ethnic heritage.

Agriculture and local industries also factor into names like the Moorhead Spuds, Austin Packers, Bemidji Lumberjacks and Crosby-Ironton Rangers.

Team names can extend, too, from the school’s name such as Lindbergh (Hopkins) Flyers, Robbinsdale Robins, Red Wing Wingers and Burnsville Blaze.

A white rabbit statue sits along Minnesota Highway 68 in Wabasso.

A white rabbit statue sits along Minnesota Highway 68 in Wabasso. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

In the past, animals, such as my beloved Rabbits, were common as mascots.

Recent trends during school consolidations are to forge a new identity such as the Northern Freeze Nordics comprised of students from the small northwestern Minnesota communities of Newfolden, Viking and Holt. (Yes, I had to check a map.)

The Otto the otter statue in Adams Park in Fergus Falls. The Otter Tail River runs through this city where the Fergus Falls High School mascot is the otter.

The Otto the otter statue in Adams Park in Fergus Falls. The Otter Tail River runs through this city where the Fergus Falls High School mascot is the Otters. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Naturally, I wanted to know what mascots Borning might have selected for that USA TODAY contest had he been given the opportunity. He suggests these stand-out Minnesota names: Moorhead Spuds, Esko Eskomos, Thief River Falls Prowlers, Edgerton Flying Dutchmen, Two Harbors Agates, Grand Meadow Superlarks, McGregor Mercuries, Mahtomedi Zephyrs, Blackduck Drakes, Fergus Falls Otters and Barnum Bombers.

Just reviewing that list, I can see the connections between many of the mascots and their respective communities.

Borning also points out some unique Minnesota team names that have been lost to history such as the Jasper Quartziters, Tyler Danes, Walnut Grove Loggers, Granite Falls Kilowatts, Hendricks Midgets, Tracy Scrappers and Freeborn Yeomen.

I photographed this logo a year ago at Randolph Public Schools, home of the Rockets.

I photographed this logo a year ago at Randolph Public Schools, home of the Rockets.

Finding information on past high school sports team names has proven challenging for Borning, so he continues to research information for MascotDB, the only searchable online database of U.S. and Canadian high school, college and professional team names/mascots. “Reading up and discussing great and interesting team nicknames and mascots has always been a fun pastime for me,” he says. That led him to develop MascotDB.

Given the sheer amount of research he’s done, my cousin was able to tell me that only three U.S. high schools have Rabbits (not to be confused with Jackrabbits) as their mascots. Those are in Atlanta, Texas; Delta, Utah; and Wabasso, Minnesota.

Go, Rabbits.

A water tower in Wabasso sports the school's mascot, a white rabbit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

A water tower in Wabasso sports the school’s mascot, a white rabbit. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

FYI: Click here to visit MascotDB.

Borning also welcomes information and questions about sports’ names/mascots. Contact him at info at mascotdb.com

Also, click here to learn more about the origin of the Rabbits mascot at my alma mater.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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38 Responses to “Voting for Minnesota’s most unique high school mascot & insights into other team names in our state”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    Hard to imagine a crowd roaring “Go Blossoms”!!! It’s kind of anticlimactic, lacking the ‘punch’ that would follow from something like, say,….”GO BRUISERS”!!!!………Love this post!!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      That is why Blossoms is preceded by “Awesome,” to make it “Awesome Blossoms.” Glad you enjoyed the post. I found the whole story, about the national contest, and my cousin’s website, to be so interesting. I learned about the website last summer and was going to post about it then. But the topic got put aside. So when this USA TODAY contest came along, the timing was perfect to write about MascotDB.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    What fun to read about those mascots and where the ideas came from. When we lived in Freeport, IL the mascot was (/were ? ) the Pretzels. We promised the boys we would try to move before they hit their high school years and we did. 🙂

  3. Clyde of Mankato Says:

    Don’t forget the Two Harbors Agates, my alma mater and where I taught for 24 years. Or Moorhead Spuds. Of all the many many schools I worked in, my favorite was, and I bet this makes the list, the Belfry MT Bats.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      The Two Harbors Agates and Moorhead Spuds are mentioned in my post. But I’ve not heard of the Belfry MT Bats. That’s clever.

      • Clyde of Mankato Says:

        Oops. Still cleaning the old apartment and scanned, not carefully. The students regularly want to change the name Agates. Old Farts, of course, object mightily. I think if you will look that there are schools in Minnesota named Warriors on reservations. I think in White Earth. Although that too may have lapsed since many of the Rez schools have closed. Esko had to fight to keep Eskomos since it is apparently a Native name. somehow they argued that it was just about the town. So do they still have an igloo as their school letter? Great little school and town Esko.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Don’t know if an igloo is their school letter, but there’s an igloo on the home page of the school website.

      • Clyde of Mankato Says:

        The Native schools can use the names Braves etc. of course. White Earth does not seem to have a full H.S. anymore. I am surprised that Sleepy Eye is allowed to be Indians. I guess they got a neighboring tribe to endorse it.
        A favorite college name: the Stetson Hatters.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Hmmm, I had not thought about Sleepy Eye. I lived and worked for the newspaper there for six months a long time ago.

        The Stetson Hatters–that’s great.

      • Clyde of Mankato Says:

        The Agates, if you don’t know, are named for the pretty lined stones people hunt along the shore, and no longer often see. Two Harbors is called the Agate City. The kids used to think it was just weird. I used to tell them that was a negative term for unique. The yearbook, which I advised for 17 years, is called the Nor’Easter which they always wanted to change. Maybe they have.
        My favorite Agate story: School colors are maroon and white, not the dark Gopher Maroon, but closer to red. One year the cheerleaders did not wear the tradition block TH (T over the H) but wore a maroon A over white sweaters. That year I had a very funny and talented kid, very good with words (now a successful supervising editor for a magazine publishing house). When we were reading the Scarlet Letter he wrote a paper (not what I assigned at all) called “Hawthorne Goes to an Agate Basketball Game.” He had Hawthorne having horrors seeing the girls wearing the big bold Scarlet letter on their chests. It started with a long description of a rusty old shovel leaning by the door of the gym. You have to know the book pretty well to get that. It was one of the two funniest things I have had students write. When we connected on fb, he was surprised I would remember that paper. Who could forget it? I was ashamed I had not seen the implications of their sweaters. He did a perfect imitation of Hawthortne’s style. Not easy to do.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Oh, yes, I know agates. I had great uncles who were rockhounds and they taught me and my siblings to appreciate agates and other stone treasures. I still look for pretty stones.

        What a great student you had; not at all surprised that he went on to a writing/editing career. He was fortunate to have you as his teacher.

        Thanks for sharing this story, Clyde. I love hearing these gems. I suppose you can’t hear gems. But the word fits here.

    • Belfry, MT is just a hop, skip, and jump from Billings. I attended a basketball game in the “Bat Cave” about 8 years ago.

  4. fowlguy Says:

    Am a old tyler Dane. A sad day when we lost it.

  5. Lanae Says:

    Yeah, Rabbits!!!!!! We may have moved away, but always in our hearts.

  6. I get a kick out of mascot names as well – In middle school I was a Seagull. Pretty lame. In high school I moved two times so I started out as a Viking, was a Cougar in the middle, and ended up as a Bear – which, as the city of Berlin’s mascot is a bear, was appropriate. Then, of course, I was a duck…which remains my favorite. GO DUCKS! I too, noticed as I read your post, how the team names often reflect the town’s name – I like that! Even if it means you have to be a Blossom…

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Quite a diverse group there. My elementary school was the Wildcats; junior high, the Cardinals; next, the Rabbits; the Vikings at my two-year college; and finally the Mavericks where I earned my four-year degree. That’s quite a group, too.

  7. Allan Landman Says:

    The saying at Wabasso High School is “We’re “hare”today, gone to tomorrow

  8. Kent Kletscher Says:

    I think the best part of the Rabbit nickname was the clever cheers from opposing teams. Things like “silly rabbits, basketball is for Tigers”. Or the ever popular “be quiet, we are rabbit hunting.”. Spoke in the voice of Elmer Fudd. Seeing the picture of that old gymnasium brings back a lot of great memories.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Kent, those cheers are pretty hilarious. I didn’t remember those, or perhaps never heard them.

      Good to hear from you, cousin. It’s been a long, long time. You should come to the family reunion next summer. We’d all love to see you.

  9. hotlyspiced Says:

    Go the White Rabbit. We don’t have mascots for our teams in Australia, certainly not school teams. This is very new to me xx

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Now that is interesting. Perhaps you could suggest this. I think the whole idea is to help build school pride and define identity.

  10. OK, I vote for Moorhead “SPUDS” gotta love a potato!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Unfortunately USA TODAY did not choose the Spuds as one of the five unique mascots from Minnesota. But you can still vote for the Spuds. I expect this vote may have something to do with your previous residency in Moorhead. But you’re right. Gotta love a Spud.

      • I called the District office in Moorhead, and told them to get on this! Seriously, I did. How can a potato with eyes, arms and legs NOT be the winner?!!!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Love that you followed up on this with the Moorhead school district. I have no idea how USA TODAY chose the top five from each state. Let me know if anything comes of this phone call, OK? Just email me.

      • Well, they didn’t laugh at me!
        She pulled up the web site while still on the phone with me and was going to give it to the Communications person!
        Now if I could get this excited about some house chores!
        🙂

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        This is great! Note that I seldom use exclamation marks. Keep me posted.


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