Tag Archives: Canaligator

Take a Bite Out of Hunger: Boston Urban Iditarod 2013

Boston Urban Iditarod Ghosts of Red Sox Past Trophies

Better Than the World Series Trophies — Youk and Manny, aka Darren Garnick and Chris Hegarty, fantasize about winning the coveted Golden Shopping Cart at the Boston Urban Iditarod. (Full Disclosure: They did not win).

This was the first race EVER in which I stopped in the middle for a beer, burger and fries (at Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar).

But that was a mandatory component of the Boston Urban Iditarod, a 5K charity “dogsled” race in which a shopping cart is the city sled and people are the dogs. The wacky event last weekend was also part pub crawl, part talent show and part parade float/ costume contest. There were 102 teams and 600 runners — only one of whom was wearing a Manny Ramirez wig (my childhood friend Chris Hegarty). More than 6,000 pounds of canned goods were collected for the Boston Medical Center Food Pantry.

Boston Urban Iditarod Ghosts of Red Sox Past 1

Ghosts of Red Sox Past: Dice-K, Manny, Nomar and Youk Together Again!

Our team theme was “Ghosts of Red Sox Past,” which involved a tribute to Red Sox players who were once heroes but later kicked out of town on their asses. A shopping bag ghost — looking like the Unknown Comic from The Gong Show — was our cart figurehead. Decorations also included Whiffle Bats, Whiffle Balls and a T-Ball glove zip-tied to the cart.

In the creativity department, we fell smack in the middle of the pack. Beneath us on the costume food chain were people who just slapped on Scooby Doo costumes from the party store and lots of generic pirates. More dedicated efforts included a UFO Roswell Alien gang, a Swan Lake ballet cart made from toilet paper, a group of exhibitionist gladiators wearing suits of armor made from newspaper (in 40 degree weather), and a funky papier mache dragon.

The Sox thing was an achievable theme at the last minute — and I thought, extremely relevant since the race began at Fenway Park. It was fun to yell “NO-MAH!” at my friend George’s Nomar Garciaparra jersey and to hear random motorists shout “YOOOUUUKKKKK!” at my Kevin Youkilis jersey, purchased at the last minute for a New Hampshire Magazine story about Red Sox fans.


All Five Sox “Ghosts” — Marty Karlon, Kevin Garnick, Chris Hegarty, Darren Garnick and George Austin.

My friend George had TWO Garciaparra jerseys lying around at home so he lent one to my brother Kevin and we had Nomar 1 and Nomar 2 battling it out for Iditarod glory.


Sox Ghosts in Action on the Streets of Boston.

Special thanks to the Whole Foods Market in Bedford, Mass., for lending our team a coveted shopping cart (race organizers don’t provide them) and donating a case of organic canned beans, bringing our team total to 70 pounds for the food bank. Also special thanks to the Lowell Spinners baseball team for loaning us their old Canaligator mascot head for the event.


Cereal Mascots — Reminiscent of the time that Warner Brothers and Disney Cartoons Co-Starred in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger Teams Up with the Trix Rabbit and Lucky Charms Leprechaun from General Mills.

I didn’t go crazy on the pub crawl component of the race, limiting myself to two beers. Much tougher to run on a beer-saturated stomach, although the younger guys in the race seemed to be unaffected.


Spy vs Spy — The Iditarod Organizers Channeling the Mad Magazine of my Youth!

For more colorful scenes from the Boston Urban Iditarod, check out this WBUR story on the race and my full photo gallery of the Sox Ghosts (with our competition) in action!

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Filed under Adventure Races, Boston Urban Iditarod

World Dental Flossing Record

Documentary filmmaker Peter Koziell flosses his teeth to make history with the Lowell Spinners, the Class A minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

I missed out on the world record attempt for most people popping bubble wrap at the same time. And I also couldn’t make the Duck-Duck-Goose World Record event, so there was NO WAY I was going to miss being part of the World Dental Floss Record.

I was addicted to the Guinness Book of World Records as a kid and even if they don’t validate this magic night, it won’t be diminished one iota in my heart (or molars).  Not to mention the special bond I feel with the Lowell Spinners, having once seen the world through the big felt eyes of their Canaligator!

Action photo of Bristles the Toothbrush attempting to steal home.

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Filed under Great Moments in Dental History

WALKING IN ALLIGATOR SHOES: Being a minor league baseball mascot is not as easy as it looks

POWERFUL FRIENDS: U.S. Sen. John Kerry yuks it up with the Lowell Spinners Canaligator, before the mascot's redesign. (Courtesy of the Lowell Spinners)

THE WORKING STIFF – By Darren Garnick
“GATOR AID: It’s all fun and games until a mascot loses an eye”

The Boston Herald — June 27, 2007
Dragging my clumsy, oversized feet and sagging tail through a
labyrinth of picnic tables last weekend, I knew instantly that my
career as a minor league baseball mascot was over.

After the pre-game meet-and-greet session outside the ballpark, I
would turn in my alligator snout. It was the only honorable thing to
do. Lowell Spinners fans expected to be entertained by a gregarious,
upbeat Canaligator (named for the city’s majestic Venetian waterways),
and I was a feeble reptile at best.

Under the tutelage of full-time gator Steve Nicholson, a 17-year-old
junior at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, I thrived in the
job’s social role. When people embraced me, I returned the love. I
even hugged the thuggish-looking characters I’d ordinarily never make
eye contact with.

Just two problems: I couldn’t see and I couldn’t breathe.

Based on a costume fitting the previous week, I knew the vision
thing would be an issue. The alligator snout tends to droop over the
eye holes, and the snug-fitting head does not accommodate my glasses.
But from my brief immersion, I did not anticipate the stale air flow.
I did not expect to be gagging.

The sleeker, hipper modern Canaligator, a.k.a. me, greets fans outside the ballpark.

Nicholson, formerly known to Spinners fans as the “Wave Man” who dances
on the dugouts, shared the breaking news with his fellow mascots. I
would no longer be participating in the Dizzy Bat Contest, the Chicken
Dance or the Dancing With The Gators.

“He just doesn’t want to do it anymore,” he told his mascot wife,
Allie Gator, and mascot daughter, Millie Gator.

“It’s not that I don’t want to do it,” I
protested. “I simply cannot live up to your professional standards.
The fans deserve much better.”

“Well, I didn’t want to say the word can’t,” the diplomatic Nicholson said.

Hanging out in the mascot dressing room, I realized that all the
full-time gators were built like dancers and athletes. The real
Canaligator, who wears skin-tight black Under Armour under his suit,
looks like a Navy SEAL. I was happy when they tore off their heads
during a break and I saw them sweating profusely and gasping for
oxygen. It meant we had something in common.

During the fifth inning, as I was shadowing the Canaligator on his way
to greet birthday party guests, a rambunctious kid darted from behind
and slapped the mascot on the back. I wasn’t sure if it was a hostile
smack or an affectionate one. Nicholson would later tell me that he’s
“been beaten many times in a playful way” by children and drunken
college students.

Newly sympathetic about his limited scope of vision, I now considered
myself to be the Canaligator’s bodyguard. The backslap kid seemed to
be still trailing us, but what were his motives? Was that a souvenir
mini-bat by his side or was it a potential assault weapon? I couldn’t
be sure, but I was ready to bodycheck him into the concession stands
just in case.

Turns out that the kid just wanted a gator hug.

Ironically, vision problems wound up benching the Canaligator after
all (even though my nearsightedness had nothing to do with it). For
the last three innings of the game, official mascot escort Nicole
Piliponis clutched her cell phone in crisis mode.

“The Canaligator’s eye fell off and we can’t find it,” she informed
her supervisor in a somber tone. “What about ‘Gates?'”

“Gates” is one of the most vital mascot responsibilities, giving
departing fans one last chance to bond with Lowell’s loveable gator

In what can only be described as a Canaligator Miracle, Nicholson
found his alter ego’s plastic eye in a pile of rocks underneath the
first base dugout. He made it to Gates, only to have the same eye
fall off again while he was hugging a five-year-old girl.

Alerted by his escort, the Canaligator stuck his claw over his wounded
eye and rushed to the elevator.

“Luckily, she didn’t even notice. Her dad hid it pretty well,” a
relieved Nicholson later said. “We’re not in the business of freaking
kids out.”

Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the
Boston Herald. For an extra helping, visit “The Working Stiff” blog.

Click here for exclusive tips on how to be the best mascot you can be and more behind-the-scenes insights on the Lowell Spinners Canaligator.

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Filed under Darren's Archive Vault, Mascot Misery, Red Sox, Red Sox Schlock, Sports