Our Mascot, VZ!

History of VZ Vuppet

By Christine (Schirmer) Stavash

Van Zant class of 1985

VZ Vuppet

VZ Vuppet was created by a talented team of parents and staff at Van Zant school. For many months an empty room housed the creation and production of the school's mascot. The room was shrouded in secrecy, windows were covered, and only certain individuals were allowed inside!

VZ was modeled after the form of the Philly Phanatic. The PTA and principal, John Kloos, wanted to create a mascot that would represent Van Zant school. At the time in the 1980's, there was a famous puppeteer named Jim Henson who created a loveable bunch of puppets known as The Muppets. VZ was given the last name of Vuppet, in the style of the Muppets.

Art teacher, Frances Loiacono, as well as several members of the PTA helped to bring VZ to life. Kathy Adamek, Pat Fitzgerald, Sallie Schirmer, and Mary Ann Tartaglia were the amazing people who gave their time and talent to the creation of VZ. Mrs. Schirmer's sister, Nancy Trainer, had sewn for the Philly Phanatic, so she was able to give advice and suggestions. Mrs. Adamek remembers laughing a lot and enjoying their time together creating something wonderful for the school.

VZ's head was a cone-like shape covered with fluorescent pink fur attached to a football helmet. His body was a series of hula hoops sewn into the pink furry skin to create the pear like shape. He sported leg warmers, very big in the 80's, as well as Mrs. Schirmer's son's old Converse high top sneakers. Her son named, Peter had very large feet, so a person with a small foot could easily slip their entire shoe into the high tops.

VZ made his debut on Valentine's Day, 1985, thus creating his birthday as being February 14th. The first person to be inside the Vuppet was principal, Norm Allison. He was not the principal at Van Zant, but volunteered for this first appearance. The neckline of the costume did not allow for easy airflow, so Mr. Allison was feeling quite lightheaded by the end of his performance. Later in the afternoon, Mr. Moore, the head custodian, was VZ for the afternoon kindergarteners. He had the same experience. Luckily the team was able to problem solve the neckline and adjust it for better airflow.

Many staff members and family members have been VZ over the years: Jean Blasko, Stephen Pritti, and even Scott Katz one time! It is always fun to hear the students try to guess who's inside VZ based upon which adults are missing at that time!

The original costume was used for many years until principal Rosemary McMullen was approached by the members of PTA to remake VZ. Since many of the original creators were no longer available to work on a newer version, the PTA went with a costume design company from Philadelphia. Ms. McMullen, being very considerate of keeping VZ as traditional as possible, asked teacher Christine (Schirmer) Stavash to help guide the design process. Ms. McMullen discussed every step of VZ's new design with Mrs. Stavash to make sure that VZ looked as similar to the original as possible.

We have been so lucky at Van Zant School to have such a dedicated group of individuals that have helped to keep VZ alive and a vital part of the Van Zant community.

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