May I Have Your Paw-tograph?: Animal Celebrities You Should Know in Columbia SC
Wednesday, June 30, 2021 12:00 AM by Dayna Cantelmi
We get it – all of our pets are stars in our eyes. Some of them may even have their own Instagram following. But when it comes to local recognition or representation of Columbia SC, here’s a handful of some of the top dogs (and cats and birds and you get the point).
Cocky and Sir Big Spur
If there’s one animal you’re bound to see splashed all over town more than any other, it’s definitely a Gamecock. Whether you see it on merchandise, through artwork or hear its crows blasting through town on a loudspeaker every Friday, there’s no denying this is Gamecock Country. The garnet and black symbol of UofSC is brought to life through mascots Cocky and Sir Big Spur and the pair can be found on the sidelines during games.
Okay, we know fireflies are an insect, not an animal, but you can’t deny that the synchronous fireflies (aka Photinus carolinus) at Congaree National Park carry some serious clout. I mean, they inspired a whole minor league baseball team and bring in thousands of visitors each year. If that doesn’t qualify you as a local celebrity, I don’t know what does. Watch them light up the night sky each year in late spring.
And speaking of the aforementioned baseball team, we would be remiss in not including their mascot, Mason, in this list. Ever since the Columbia Fireflies made their debut in 2016, the community immediately became fans. It’s hard to go anywhere without seeing someone sporting that glow-in-the-dark logo. Catch Mason doing his thing at each game.
The Fireflies aren’t the only baseball team in town. In fact, the Blowfish summer collegiate team has been around since 2006. Named after a certain famous band that got their start during their years at UofSC, the Blowfish first emerged in Columbia when the professional Capital City Bombers team left. Then in 2014, they made the move over to Lexington County. Their mascot, Blowie, is sure to pump fans up for the game.
In the same vein as the synchronous fireflies, the Columbia region is also home to another summertime natural phenomenon – the annual roosting of the Purple Martins on Bomb Island at Lake Murray. Each summer, beginning in July, up to a million Purple Martins (a member of the sparrow family) fill the skies as they roost at the largest Purple Martin sanctuary in North America. Pack a cooler and go for a sunset boat ride to see them fly in or start your day on the water to see them take back off at sunrise.
If you’ve ever been to Soda City Market or popped up to NOMA, then you’re probably familiar with a certain orange cat beckoning you toward some of the best biscuits of your life at Rambo’s Fat Cat Biscuits. That’s right, Rambo is the real cat of owners Renee and Todd Adams. Kind of puts a different perspective on the phrase, “making biscuits,” doesn’t it.
Sally the Salamander
You may have seen some gilded lizards posted up on the sides of a few buildings around town. These metallic little critters are actually spotted salamanders, the state amphibian, and mark the stops on the Sally Salamander Walking Tour. Happy hunting!
Move over, Airbud. The name says it all – if there’s one true king of the basketball court, then surely it’s Champ Staley – the incomparable Dawn Staley’s four-legged friend. With a few thousand followers of his own on Instagram (@champstaley2017), he’s a household name just like his momma.
How do you single out just one animal from an entire zoo of amazing creatures? You don’t. I’m taking the easy way out and recognizing all of them collectively. Riverbanks Zoo and Garden is home to more than 2,000 animals, including Zuri the lion, Bruce the giraffe, Winnie the rhino, Gambit the harbor seal and Patrick the gorilla, among many others. We love them all and you will, too.