Last year, a Southwestern Illinois College employee filled the snow leopard mascot costume called Kashmir.
This year the college held tryouts Thursday to pick one or two students to do the job.
Jeff Blue, a marketing employee who played the mascot last year, was in charge of the auditions.
As an expert he had tips for everyone, including how to get into the somewhat complicated costume.
"Everything you're going to do, do it bigger, because the costume is so big," he said. "Small gestures get lost."
After suiting up in the varsity gym at the Belleville campus, candidates had a minute to get used to the outfit, then it was off down the main hall to the cafeteria and back.
"Keep in mind the judges are interspersed through the hallway," Blue said. "You want to make sure you are Kashmir the entire time."
Eight people tried out for what will be at least one spot, and maybe two. The winner, or winners, get a $500 scholarship from the SWIC Foundation.
The candidates strutted, danced and even moonwalked through the hall. One performed a cartwheel in the cafeteria.
One candidate, Jordan Tomei of Freeburg who is a sophomore, said she always wanted to be a mascot.
She brought along her own music and a basketball to perform a routine. At one point she played air guitar on her tail.
"It wasn't so bad," she said. "I got a lot of hugs."
Judges were looking for interaction, innovation, creativity and enthusiasm. Various candidates had various moves, from attempting to drink from a water fountain to voguing for the camera to hugging.
Roger Miller, a sophomore from Belleville, was the only candidate to skate through his tryout -- literally. He performed on roller skates. He said he had been skating since he was 2.
After taking off the skates and suit, he popped a back flip.
"Can you do that in the suit?" Blue asked.
"Yes. But not with skates on," Miller said.
Blue said they should know the winner or winners by Monday but hope to keep it secret to protect the persona of Kashmir.
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