The wildlife of the Adirondacks are now awakening from their winter slumber and are ready to "spring" back into action now that the days are becoming warmer. Many locals know this is the season where one might come across one of our furry forest friends on an adventure in the woods or even in their backyard. However, the animal mascots of the Lake Placid Olympic Museum never seem to "sleep" and are always cheerfully greeting our visitors. On display you can see the entire collection of Winter Olympic mascots which over the years have become examples of the imagination and artistic creativity of their host country.
The first unofficial Olympic mascot was named "Schuss" and was born at the Grenoble Olympic Winter Games in 1968. Schuss was a little man on skis and became the first of a long line of mascots that continues as an Olympic tradition. The mascot has the job of creating Olympic spirit, giving the Olympics a festive atmosphere and promoting the history and culture of the host city. From a dog to the polar bear, the mascots lend an element of humor and joy to the Olympics.
There have been several different types of bear mascots that have appeared in the Olympic Games, but the Olympic Winter Games of 1980 in Lake Placid had the only raccoon. The name Roni was chosen by Lake Placid school children and comes from the word "raccoon" in Iroquoian, the language of the native people from the region of Lake Placid and the State of New York. The raccoon is a common animal from the Adirondack region and some might recognize that the facial features of a raccoon with the black and white mask around its eyes resembles the sunglasses or goggles worn by some winter sport athletes. The artist, Don Moss can be credited for creating the lovable Roni Raccoon and bringing him to life. Moss designed several items for Capital Sports that were made into Roni souvenirs ranging from belt buckles to posters.
Fitting right into the stereo-typical personality of a raccoon that is always getting into trouble, Roni Raccoon didn't get through the Olympics without a controversy of his own. A poster was created by Amy Schneider with Roni standing on a mountain grabbing the Olympic rings. Since the design of the Olympic rings symbolizes the universality of Olympism and the meeting of the athletes and nations of the world, the symbol is subject to very strict rules by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in that nothing shall touch the rings. The poster had already been produced in a small quantity before the IOC deemed it illegal and can sometimes be found in antique stores and online auction sites. Schneider quickly created a different version of the poster with Roni's claws digging into the side of the mountain rather than the rings.
A larger-than-life sized Roni mingled with fans during the Olympics and participated in several different winter sports during the Games such as skiing and skating. Thirty-three years later, when visitors enter the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, they are greeted by the beloved raccoon, however staff often hears our young visitors refer to him as everything from a cat to a skunk to a bear. While some children are scared of this oversized raccoon wearing a ski bib, others make quick friends with him and love having their picture taken with Roni. Due to his popularity amongst Lake Placid Olympic fans, a second costume was created that the Lake Placid Olympic Museum has available for rent, but if you would rather add Roni Raccoon to your own personal collection, the museum has Roni posters available for a suggested donation.
The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Ironman Sunday. For more information about the Lake Placid Olympic Museum, see our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lake.placid.olympic.museum.