$n$ Walla Walla High School logo change runs into opposition

A move afoot to put a new face on the familiar blue mascot has its proponents but some vociferous critics, too.

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WALLA WALLA -- A beloved, yet sinister, school mascot may have gotten a modern update, but the old devil will continue to live on proudly for now.

Plans to update the Walla Walla High School "Blue Devil" have been quietly taking shape this year, with the Big Blue Athletic Booster Club being a driving force behind the change. The booster club supports Wa-Hi athletics.

Wa-Hi Principal Darcy Weisner said he was aware that booster club members had been at work to revamp the devil, and was supportive as they developed and finalized a new design.

"It's something that we've obviously worked on, and that's as far as it's gone at this point," said Phil Oberg, president of the booster club's board of directors. Oberg declined to comment further, and deferred any background on the developments to Weisner.

The new sketch was introduced with the start of the school year, appearing prominently on the Wa-Hi Web site at wahibluedevils.org, where it remains. The new devil was also peppered throughout the 2009 fall sports programs, which were sold at the school's first football game of the season last week.

Shading and the overall expression of the newer devil is a significant departure from the old version, which shows a simpler, two-tone devil facing forward with a frown. The newer version is more animated, and includes a fanged grin and arched eyebrows, with one eye wide open and one closed.

Weisner said as people caught sight of the redesigned logo, it appeared to be well received.

But as word may have spread that the new devil might be painted in the school's gymnasium, the overall response was far from positive.

"That's when people got their hackles up a little bit," he said.

Questions came from concerned residents wanting to know whether the traditional blue devil would be changing, and why the change was being brought on.

Weisner said booster club members were representing alumni who felt the time was ripe to make some enhancements to the devil. The main goal, as can be seen in the finished product, was to "soften," and make more playful, the otherwise mean-looking devil. Weisner said they worked on the redesign last year.

"I like it, personally," Weisner said. "I think it's a little bit funner, and it's got a little bit more color to it."

Yet Weisner said he understood the decision would ultimately fall on the public, or rather, the students, who do have ownership of their school's mascot.

He said any discussion of replacing the official devil had yet to take place. The few appearances of the redesigned devil were primarily a way to test the public's reaction to it. And so far, the reaction has been loud enough to halt any further developments.

That's not to discourage people who may want to sport the new devil, Weisner added. He said vendors, such as Wal-Mart or downtown shops, that already sell Wa-Hi gear are not controlled by the school's Associated Student Body and can make their own decisions about the products they sell.

One vendor, for example, sells a version of the Blue Devil that is closer to the Arizona State Sun Devil, but in blue rather than red and gold.

"The enhanced one can be used by people if they choose to, but it's not the official logo," Weisner said.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.


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