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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Logansport High School Berries might just have one of the most interesting nicknames in the state of Indiana. However, do not expect to see a bushel of berries as the school’s mascot running around the gym, but rather a feline character named Felix the Cat.
Felix is recognized at the state's oldest mascot having been adopted in 1926. There are variations of the story, but they all seem centered around a stuffed black and white doll named “Felix” by the players.
The most reliable theory states that during 1926-27 season a stuffed animal was presented to star player Raymond “Curly” Hupp by coach Cliff Wells. During an important game that was going badly for Logansport, Felix was taken from the locker and placed in the center of the floor. The Berries were victorious, and Felix became a good luck charm and official mascot of the team.
As for why the school is known as the Berries, there is no definite answer for that question. The name was officially adopted by the school in 1955, but dates back to 1922. One theory states the name came from a popular saying during the 1920’s, “That’s the berries,” meaning that’s the best. It soon replaced school nicknames that included “Red Devils” and “Red and Black.”
With the dedication of a new gym in 1927, it was suggested by the press to name it the Berry Bowl. The old venue was truly shaped like a bowl with seats circling around the playing court. In 1973 the name would carry over to its current modern basketball gymnasium.
The current Berry Bowl is shaped like a “square” bowl offering seating for close to 6,000 people. It is located adjacent to the school with a separate main entrance in front of a large parking lot. Once you are inside, Felix the Cat presence is practically everywhere on signage, flooring, concession items, and banners.
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The Berries serve similar concession items that are found at other Indiana gyms, but it's the presentation that sets them apart. Two small flat TV screens offer combo meals that save customers a few dollars. The idea was that of Brian Strong, Athletic Director who wanted to mirror what customers would see at a movie theater.
The food offerings are hot dogs, pizza, nachos, candy, popcorn, and soda. All staples of high school basketball and all served fresh and tasty. However, there is one item on the menu board that may not be too familiar to most first time visitors.
Hot dogs and nachos are available with Spanish sauce. It is a common term for a spicy chili concoction that appears to be popular throughout the city. A regular hot dog is $1.50, but with cheese and Spanish sauce and it's $2, nachos with the same toppings plus jalapenos are $3.25, and you can wash it down Pepsi products for $1.50 each. Other concession stand items include donuts, cotton candy, bananas, and caramel corn.
The Berry Bowl is dressed nicely with school spirit. At the entrance, a trophy case contains the school's 1934 state championship, newspaper articles, team photos, and championship game basketball. There is a giant banner showcasing Felix the Cat's 90th anniversary of being the state's oldest mascot, championship banners that hang above the concession stand, and Art Deco signage honoring former players.
The lower level of the seating bowl features seats on both sides, with a few on the north side of the court. The basketball court is adorned with an oversize photo of Felix and his image also dons the bottom of the red electronic scoreboard, the north side wall, and the padded cushions on the opposite end.
The upper level offers three sides of seating that stretch up near the ceiling providing more than enough room to stretch your legs and enjoy the game from multiple vantage points. This may not be the case for boys or girls regional games, but during the course of a Berries game, you may find groups of kids hanging out and socializing.
The game begins with the Berries marching onto the court as the crowd stands and applauds. Cheerleaders circle around the middle of the court and a mascot Felix dances and cheers along with them in unison. Felix also greets fans young and old before tip off at the entrance before joining in with the student section and band during the game.
Logansport is a small town 18,396 located in Cass County-70 miles northwest of Indianapolis. The town features a main drag offering chain restaurants and plenty of hotel options. However, there are couple of local establishments that should be a stop before or after the game.
Mr. Happy Burger is a staple among the residence in the area. There is a lot to choose from and that may be the hardest decision. They are known for their pork tenderloin sandwiches, Hap's Delight that is smothered in tartar sauce, and Spanish dogs which are topped with a spicy homemade chili and also poured over nachos. There is also an ice cream shop that offers cones, sundaes, and milkshakes for dessert.
Old Style Inn is another highly recommended restaurant that serves brisket and a blue cheese steak salad. The ambiance of the establishment features a retro corner pub; wood paneling, tin ceiling.
There are quite a bit of hotel options including Holiday Inn Express, Super 8, and Quality Inn.
The Logansport faithful enjoy watching the Berries and proudly represent the team colors of red and black at home games. Older fans line up along the railing on the upper concourse porch for a birds eye view of the court. Many have been coming to games even before the gym was constructed, and new generation of fans can be spotted, perhaps a few years from becoming fully ingrained with the Berry culture.
There are no interstates to take you into Logansport and GPS can be spotty at times in the area. The best access from Indianapolis is to travel north on State Road 31 pass Kokomo and take State Road 35 into town. You can also take S.R. 25 off of I-65 in Lafayette and travel 40 miles into town. There are no signs leading to the high school or the Berry Bowl.
Once inside the gymnasium it is easy to get around the spacious venue. Bathrooms are located on the lower floor and outside the corner of the upper concourse. There is also ample parking in front of the gymnasium with staff helping direct cars before and after each game.
A visit to Logansport can make for a nice relaxing day trip off the beaten path of the city, sprawling suburbs, and congested interstate. There is quite a bit to enjoy inside the Berry Bowl and when tickets are $5 and concession prices even cheaper, it is a fitting way to stretch your sports entertainment wallet. Kids will enjoy the free Felix the Cat decals and parents can take the whole family out to eat at Mr. Happy Burger after the game.
1-Felix the Cat is everywhere inside the building; a character that is older than Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, has found a home here in Logansport. His image is a welcome addition to the traditional, and sometimes all-too-common, school nicknames and logos throughout Indiana.
2-The menu boards are pretty impressive on bright color flat screen TV's at the concession stands.
3-The school nickname Berries may sound like an odd name, but there is a lore behind its genesis and both students and alumni have embraced the name. It is considered by many fans and high school hoops enthusiasts as one of the best names in the state.
4-There are mascots in other gymnasiums, but Felix seems to out distance them in energy and zeal. He greets fans of all ages at the entrance to the facility, dances with the cheerleaders, and energizes the crowd during the game.
5-The Art Deco lettering for the school's hall of legion is an ingenious touch harking back to the school's one and only state championship. Lettering you would expect to find from a building constructed in the 1920's or 1930's adds a little shimmer inside the building.
The Berry Bowl has a distinct charm that should appeal to both young and old fans. The history about the school's nickname and why they employ a cartoon cat is also fascinating to talk about with fans inside the building. If you have some time and want to enjoy a relaxing day of basketball, head out to Logansport and watch the Berries.
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