For over twenty years, the Colorado School of Mines has celebrated touchdowns by having students run laps around the field with Blaster the Burro, the university’s beloved mascot.
After a long career and thousands of celebratory yards galloped, the original Blaster is retiring.
And with the throne empty, two local donkeys, Pepsi and Winkie, vied to become his successor.
The qualifications for the job were pretty simple. Prospective burros had to have a similar coat color, height and weight as the retired Blaster. He stands around 3 feet tall and clocks in close to 500 lbs. They must also be comfortable around people in loud environments so that they can follow directions.
Most importantly for Blue Key Honor Society member Christina Baker, who handles Blaster on game days, the winning donkey has to be able to run.
“Are they adaptable? Do they like running with people? Are they okay with the crowd noise? Are they okay with the flags and everything?” Baker said. “Just making sure they're not going to get spooked and that they can follow the people running and not just go running off or sprinting ahead of everybody.”
Blue Key members held auditions for Pepsi and Winkie at Marv Kay Stadium, where home football games are played. Activities included meeting the donkeys, running a couple laps and taking donkey selfies.
Blaster is a big deal in Golden, and some of the university’s top brass was in attendance, including Mines president Paul Johnson and football head coach Gregg Brandon.
The auditions weren’t just for the prospective burros. It was also a test for the owners, to make sure they’re a good fit for the school’s values. Mines pays the owner $125 every time Blaster makes a public appearance.
Carol von Michaelis, Pepsi’s owner, grew up in Golden. She said her first boyfriend went to the School of Mines, so Blaster has a special place in her heart.
“I love Golden. I think that having our burro be [Mines’] mascot would kind of be full circle and [I’d just have] a lot of pride,” she said.
Pepsi and Winkie both excelled during their tryouts, leaving Blue Key with a difficult decision. At the end of the day, they couldn’t pick just one.
So, they picked both.
“Blue Key overwhelmingly felt like having two options would be the best. Winkie will be our ‘runner’ and be featured at home football games and the Ore Cart Pull. Pepsi will be our ‘social burro’ and be featured at Celebration of Mines, Commencement, Discover [and other events] when running is not required,” Dean of Students Derek Morgan said in an announcement.
The Mines football team kicks off their regular season next Saturday with their first Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference game against New Mexico Highlands University.
You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up. The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!