Katie Keesbury and Jenna Moreo consider their time as Jenny Beaver among the best parts of their Bluffton experience. Photo by Emily Huxman
Imagine a sweaty personal sauna, a claustrophobic furry suit and being touched by hundreds of people. Junior Katie Keesbury and senior Jenna Moreo have done more than imagine life in the suit—they’ve lived it. The junior and senior are two faces behind Bluffton’s mascot Jenny Beaver.
From football to basketball games and all the sporting events in between, Jenny and J Denny Beaver can be found pumping up the crowds and frolicking with children. But what is it really like to be the person under the oversized, furry beaver head?
Keesbury and Moreo both began in the position in February of 2015. While Moreo was revealed as Jenny Beaver in January 2016, Keesbury’s secret remained and wasn’t revealed until January of 2017.
Neither really planned on being the mascot much ahead of auditions, and surprised themselves with their passion for the role. In the fall before she applied, Moreo’s dad bought her a Halloween costume that resembled a mascot. She realized if she could do that, what was stopping her from being the Beaver?
“I’d always seen the Beavers at my sister’s soccer games and wondered if I could do it because I’m so shy,” Moreo said. “It was easy for me to let the shyness go away because I was behind a mask.”
Keesbury decided to audition on impulse after she saw flyers around campus advertising the application process.
“It looked fun, and I thought it would be cool to surprise people,” Keesbury said. “Plus my friends were telling me I would be a good Beaver. I figured, ‘Why not?’ ”
Under the bushy hair and large shoes, Keesbury and Moreo got a unique perspective and experience of campus and sporting events.
“When you’re in the suit,” Moreo said, “you see the love people have for the mascots and the strong community we have on this campus.”
As the mascot, Moreo and Keesbury were responsible for evoking and escalating crowd enthusiasm. Moreo had to opportunity to cheer with the cheerleaders during a football game, holding up signs for one of their cheers.
“We are there to help spread the cheer, and I thought it was fun for the spectators to see us interacting with the cheerleaders,” Moreo said.
Bluffton is well-known for its close-knit community, but a main factor in having a role as a mascot at Bluffton is keeping it a secret. Each person is responsible for creating cover stories and excuses for their whereabouts during events. They are allowed to trust one friend with their secret, to be able to share stories with and, when needed, assist in keeping their secret.
Keesbury used various friends and ceramic homework as excuses when her roommate questioned her whereabouts.
“She never thought anything about it because we are very close and tell each other everything, except for this,” Keesbury said.
These lies and cover stories were never without difficulty and strategic planning. People get suspicious eventually. One time after being in the suit for an event, Moreo had to go straight to class.
“I told my friends I had worked out,” said Moreo. “To cover the fact that I was a little sweaty.”
While Keesbury didn’t raise suspicion until the week before her reveal, Moreo once had a friend who caught her in a lie and continued asking her where she had been.
Both expressed a large difficulty was not being able to share their stories with their friends who didn’t know their secret. This then led to surprising many people close to them when their reveals finally came.
Moreo surprised her sister, who was at the event for the reveal of her friend who was also the beaver that year. They tricked her into attending. Then, she was pleasantly shocked when her sister’s face emerged from under the beaver head.
Keesury’s entire family was surprised when her name was announced, especially her dad. She admits she had a few friends who were a little bitter with her after the reveal.
Keesbury and Moreo are both enormously grateful for their time in the Beaver suit and claim the opportunity is among the highlights of their college years.
“I don’t think my college career would be as fun or memorable if I wasn’t Jenny,” Keesbury said. “The mascots are a big deal for Bluffton and their students, but it is also a big deal for those who are blessed with the opportunity to be J. Denny or Jenny Beaver.”
“It was such a rewarding experience. When I look back on my college years, I get to say I was the mascot,” said Moreo. “How cool is that? Every day is a great day to be a Beaver.”