A Magic Mystery and Fox History
David Hilbert hasn’t dressed Orlando’s Lady Liberty in Magic blue in years. Who does nowadays remains a mystery.
Photo By Norma Lopez Molina
Who puts the Magic shirt on Orlando’s Statue of Liberty during basketball season?
How does Santa Claus get down the chimney? How does the Easter Bunny get past the pit bull chained to a stake in your front yard? Why does the dilapidated Citrus Bowl still get a New Year’s Day bowl game?
There are simply some questions that may never be answered —including who climbs into the elevated flowerbed beside Lake Ivanhoe near the start of most every pro basketball season and puts a Magic T-shirt on the 8-foot-high replica of Lady Liberty. Officials with the city of Orlando and the Magic say they have no idea. Ditto for the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce, whose offices are only a full-court heave away.
But, honestly, do we really want to know? What would be the fun in that?
“It’s probably just ‘Joe Fan,’ ’’ says David Hilbert, who started the tradition in 1995 during the Magic’s playoff run to the NBA Finals but swears he hasn’t done it for many years. When Hilbert worked in an office near the statue, he and a co-worker or two would traipse over and hang a jersey on it in the morning, then in the evening, traipse back to take it off, lest it be stolen.
The city objected and removed the jersey a couple of times but finally got in the spirit and gave its blessing. But these days, the lady is stuck with that cheap-looking T-shirt, not an expensive jersey. Actually, it seems to be two faded shirts pieced together as some sort of anti-theft fashion statement.
Hmm, Answer Man doesn’t recall a plaque below the statue saying, “Give me your tired, poor-quality shirt, your huddled, thieving masses yearning for an NBA title.’’
I just saw a fox on the Rollins College campus. What should I do?
Answer Man suggests you walk up to her and try this can’t-miss pickup line: “I hope there’s a fireman around here, cuz you’re smokin’!’’ Oh, wait—perhaps you’re talking about THE Fox, the 300-pound concrete icon brought out one day a year. In that case, it’s officially Fox Day, and if you’re a Rollins student or teacher, you can chuck the books and take the day off.
Fox Day was started in 1956, when then-President Hugh Mc-Kean decided students needed to enjoy “doing things as a college.” So he dug a 19th-century fox statue out of storage, put it on the campus lawn and announced that everybody could play hooky. The tradition has continued, except for several years in the ’60s, when campuses were a bit too unsettled, even for a sly fox.
No man knoweth the day the fox will appear, save the current president, Lewis Duncan. But students can take a pretty good guess—for the last 10 years, it’s been between April 4 and 12. The fox is rolled out to the flagpole on Mills Lawn before dawn, the chapel bell rings, and the celebration begins. Charter buses arrive to take some students to the beach, and there’s a barbecue on the lawn later in the day.
This being the Internet age, the element of surprise isn’t what it used to be. With a Web cam trained on the flagpole, the fox isn’t so sly anymore.
Answer Man welcomes your questions about the Orlando area. Send queries to firstname.lastname@example.org