“How tall are you?”
“Do you like to wear costumes?”
That’s a bizarre pair of questions to start any conversation, even if they lead to an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I started at Switch in October of 2018 as a Copywriter. At the time, this long-time St. Louis Blues fan watched as a team that was touted as the one to win the Stanley Cup by local media, quickly imploded in the first half of the season. As any hockey fan from St. Louis can now passionately discuss, the Blues turned it around in the last half of the season to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 52-yr history. While the city celebrated in the days that followed, Switch was preparing for the big party. The office was hard at work building 16 replica Stanley Cups out of “Gloria” Bud Light bottles, printing dozens of banners, and planning elements of the celebratory parade. One of those elements included finding someone over 6’ and who didn’t mind wearing a costume. I was hired to be a Copywriter, and by June, I was asked to be the Bud Knight in the first Stanley Cup Championship parade in St. Louis.
Protecting the Cup for a Kingdom of Fans
When the woman who works on the Bud Light account at Switch asks me to be the Knight, I don’t immediately jump on the idea. I have slight reservations due to my desire to celebrate the momentous occasion with friends and family. But when I stop to think about this unbelievable opportunity, I know I can’t pass up the chance to be in the parade. Not to mention, being told you’re going to sit on the carriage pulled by the Budweiser Clydesdales while the Stanley Cup sits next to you, are things that would make any Blues fan giddy.
It’s the morning of the parade. Nervousness and excitement run through my body as I make my way through the rainy, crowded streets. Once I get to the meeting point, I am met with the sight of the trailers for the Clydesdales. Seeing these majestic creatures up close is an experience in and of itself – despite my slight fear of horses. It takes two women to help me put on the suit. Each piece goes on separately, buckling, snapping, and sliding on. Real chainmail is used on the arms and thighs, and the pants are made of a thick black leather. I was told it was going to be warm and heavy. What I didn’t expect was how limited my movement was going to be. Moving my head results in the helmet running into the shoulder armor. Climbing up the ladder and positioning myself onto the carriage is a 5-10 min. ordeal. Once situated safely with the two drivers and the adorable Dalmatian, April (named after the date that Roosevelt signed the law ending Prohibition), we take off to join the parade outside the Enterprise Center.
A Sea of Fans and a Cup Within Reach
Under the Knight’s mask is a black sheer stocking with tiny eyeholes. I can barely see, but providing public anonymity is essential to the character – anyone could be the knight. When we stop outside Enterprise Center, I get my first taste of the fan energy. It’s overwhelming in all the best ways. Each fist pump or movement acknowledging the crowd is met with cheers and applause. As I take in the moment and smile ear to ear, I’m unaware that during all this commotion something bigger is happening behind me. Sure, they are cheering for me, but they are cheering even louder for the man and the trophy that is suddenly right next to me. I want to thank Alex Pietrangelo for all he did for the team and for giving fans what we’ve long wanted, but between the mask and the roaring fans, we simply look at each other and nod.
There are moments during the parade where I pause from waving, pointing, and “chair-dancing,” and take in the moment. One of which is early on after Pietrangelo holds the cup high over his head. Both of us hold our arms in the air in a celebratory pose. After he puts the Cup back down, I turn to him and give him a fist bump. He replies with a smile and says, “I’m already getting tired of lifting this above me.” Unbeknownst to him, I smile as well and then pat the Cup. It is just for a moment, but I know this sight from my tiny eyeholes will live forever in my mind.
Connecting with the Blues Through Knightly Duties
The parade is one of the most joyful experiences I’ve ever witnessed in St. Louis. On every corner there are thousands of smiling faces. People are hanging out of office windows and on parking garages, all just to get a brief glimpse of our hometown heroes and give thanks for what they achieved. After a brief break to cool off and hydrate after the parade, the Bud Light team moves to a popular local bar to film a promo video where I carry one of the replica Stanley Cups Switch built that’s made out of Bud Light “Gloria” bottles. Trying to muscle my way through the crowd and carry a 30lb Bud Light replica of the trophy, all while I have limited sight lines, lack of mobility, and fatigue quickly sinking in, makes it hard to keep going. We film for a couple of hours, as I hand out Bud Lights, carry the Cup and greet fans. I am getting exhausted and disoriented, to the point that I miss a step walking down a set of stairs carrying the trophy (thankfully, I stick the landing because we are filming). And when it’s all over, the Bud Light I have never tasted so good.
As I savor my beer, I think about everything that just transpired. I think about putting on all that armor and the weight of the suit, and I’m reminded of the players that get ready and lace up their skates for every game. There were several times throughout the day where I was exhausted. I was sweating profusely. I was having a hard time lifting my arms up over and over again – I must have pumped both fists in the air hundreds of times. But just as the Blues showed fans all season long, you don’t give up when you got a job to do. Not to mention, a job that offers a once in a lifetime experience. And while my experience was nothing like what the players went through every game, it made me appreciate this Championship team even more.