Wednesday, February 22, 2012


As some of you know, the Idyllwild Chamber of Commerce is again representing our community at the Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival. (February 17-26 at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio.) Chamber Director Idyll-Beast has been doing his part; ingratiating himself with the staff, inviting the kids in to our little "wildlife preserve" for photo ops, handing out hundreds of Visitor's Guides, maps and brochures each day, reconnecting with old friends and helping first timers plan their next vacation get-away.

There were some challenges in training the Idyll-Beast to keep the table neat. Those big paws were not made for straightening up tightly spaced piles of brochures, but I think he’s getting the hang of it. Our Beast-Whisperers have also done a great job of developing the Animal’s “script.” We have replaced last year’s greeting, “You look delicious” (maybe too provocative) with the more business-like “Have you ever been to Idyllwild?” His old sign-off line “Look me up when you’re in town” was also deemed by some too personal and he now ends each conversation with “See you in Idyllwild!”

This brings up a sensitive subject. Some members of the community have suggested that the Idyll-Beast “scares children.” I am always quick to ask if the speaker has actually seen a Beast scare a child or heard a child complain about being scared. Or is the complainer just projecting? Setting aside for the moment the fact that many Idyllwilders “scare children” and are still allowed out in public, I would like to point out that the only incidents I have personally witnessed were the results of parents (generally new fathers) who were unclear on the protocol for introducing babes in arms to a new animal. Some careless adults see the Idyll-Beast and just push the carriage right up to him, forgetting themselves completely and giving junior something of a shock when he or she glances up from their bottle to see a mountain of fur towering over them.

I believe the proper method is common knowledge, but among modern parents it is unwise to assume anything, so here I present a digest of accepted practices:

Upon seeing a new animal, park the carriage at a safe distance, 10 to 20 feet. Gently direct the child’s attention to the animal. Smile.

Leaving the carriage (preferable with a parent or other familiar adult) approach the animal yourself slowly, being sure to smile and present yourself in a non-threatening manner.

Having greeted the animal and asked its permission, you may pet, shake hands, or put an arm around the creature. Again make eye contact with your child, smile, and make reassuring noises.

Finally, if the child seems willing, slowly bring the child closer to the animal and create a suitable photo-op.

It should also be mentioned that our Idyll-Beasts have received sensitivity training. Don’t approach little ones, let them approach you. Identify yourself as a representative of the Chamber of Commerce. Never go through hand bags, back packs or vehicles in search of snacks. When greeting visitors “Welcome to Idyllwild!” is preferred over “you look delicious!” Always refer to children as “Offspring” and not “appetizers” or “tasty little morsels.”

We are presently preparing a customer satisfaction survey that will allow visitors to rate their “encounter” and give the Chamber some metrics. Contactees will be asked to rate their Idyll-Beast on courteousness, grooming, and general knowledge. Science marches forward.

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