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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Shasta Fierce: UH mascot celebrates third birthday

UH’s furry, four-legged live mascot celebrated a birthday over the weekend.

Shasta VI turned three on Sept. 28, and the Houston Zoo and the UH Alumni Association threw the big cat a large party complete with a personalized birthday cake: a multi-tiered block of ice in red and white with trout sticking out of the top.

“The trout symbolizes the candles on top of the cake because, of course, Shasta can’t blow out his own candles,” said Houston Zoo Director of Public Relations Jackie Wallace. “But he can devour his own trout.”

Dozens of people from UH alumni to well wishers and zoo patrons surrounded the animal enclosure, which was decked out with streamers, hand made signs and banners in the school’s traditional red and white color scheme.

The origin of Shasta and the University’s long-standing tradition with live mascots date back to 1947 when members of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity purchased Shasta I from Mexico. The cougar then became a prominent figure at away games during football season. Though discontinued in 1989,  the tradition of a live mascot revived in 2012 after the University adopted the current Shasta, who resides at the Houston Zoo, in 2012.

“It was a natural fit,” Wallace said of the pairing. “We have a long-standing relationship with the University of Houston, and since their mascot is a cougar, it was perfect to have this. (It’s) a great occasion for all the fans, alumni and students together with us at the zoo to pull off a great celebration.”

UHAA’s website details its partnership with the Houston Zoo, where alumni can donate to the Adopt Shasta program. Program coordinators were on hand at the event to inform patrons about the partnership and donation process to benefit the zoo and other animals in addition to Shasta.  Those who were unable to attend the ceremony were able to watch at the University’s alumni website.

Putting an event like this together takes many hands.

“It takes a lot of work. You have to coordinate with the zoo, the caretakers of Shasta and the media to pull this event off perfectly,” said Alumni Association member Scotty Lopez.

About 200 alumni signed a giant Happy Birthday poster for the Shasta. Alumni and guests wearing UH gear were allowed free entry into the zoo to celebrate.

“It’s Sunday morning, it’s 10 a.m., people should either be in bed or at church,” Student Government Association President Charles Haston said. “Seeing all these people actually turn out to celebrate Shasta’s birthday is just awesome.”

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