Amber Brown was about two inches shy of meeting the requirements to be Smiddy, the UVa-Wise mascot, but she made up for it in grit, determination. Sweet dance moves in the Prior Center quickly sealed the deal.
The Warrenton, Virginia native is finishing up her career as Smiddy on May 11 when she crosses the stage at Commencement 2019 wearing the signature Highland Cavalier cape. The cape is the traditional way the mascot reveals his or her identify to the crowd, though word often slips out to a few from time to time.
Brown had time this week to reflect on two years as Smiddy. She played lacrosse earlier in her college career, but she said the exhaustion does not compare to wearing the 50-pound suit on a hot summer day.
“It’s so hot,” she said. “I sweat in the suit more than I do in lacrosse. There is not much ventilation at all, but it is so worth it.”
She auditioned at the suggestion of former Smiddy Jacob Hurd, and she knew it was the role for her.
“I really loved it,” she said. “I knew this was what I wanted to do. I was worried at first that I might be too short. I may be the short Smiddy, but I am still a Smiddy.”
Brown has limited sight ability in the suit. She sees a small portion of the surrounding area when she is performing or visiting crowds. The handlers – Team Smiddy – are always nearby to alert her about small children who are eager to meet Smiddy.
The music major’s road to Wise was simple. She wanted to travel as far away from the rest of Virginia and still be in the Commonwealth. Wise met that requirement, and she only applied here. Brown did not visit campus before orientation.
“I also knew I wanted a small school, and it was so beautiful here,” she said.
She plans to attend graduate school soon, but hiking a large portion of the Appalachian Trail is next on her list. She plans to start in Georgia in June and will stop in Damascus, Virginia in about 40 days.
“I plan to do it alone, and my parents are worried,” she said. “I believe in myself, so I know I can do it.”
Those attending Commencement ceremonies on Saturday at 11 a.m. should be on the look for the young 5’ 4” woman wearing the Smiddy cape. She may even dance across the stage.