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43rd Stanford Tree talks stunts, branching out

“The chaos is part of the fun,” said Grayson Armour, describing his role as Stanford unofficial mascot, the Tree.

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“I’m a professional goon,” said Grayson Armour ’22, the recently crowned 43rd Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band (LSJUMB) Tree. The Daily sat down with Armour, a sophomore from Illinois studying aeronautics and astronautics, to discuss his new role as the University’s unofficial mascot, a role that has already been modified amid the spread of COVID-19. 

Stanford has no official mascot: The Stanford Cardinal refers to the color, not the bird. Unofficially filling this void is the Tree, the band mascot whose costume is redesigned each year by the student who wears it. Students seeking to be Tree must try out.

Armour said that trying out for Tree hadn’t even crossed his mind until a friend suggested it. Although he said his life motto is “Just send it,” he was initially apprehensive and reached out to 42nd Tree Caroline Kushel ’21 to learn more. 

“Once I figured out what Tree week was all about, I threw myself wholly into it,” Armour said. “No half sends!”

Tree Week comprises two weeks of stunts performed by “sprouts” — students trying out for the position — to showcase their personalities and get to know the past Trees. 

“They want you to do stunts that show off who you are,” Armour said. “Stunts are fun and goofy and don’t make complete sense all the time.” 

Each sprout performs stunts relating to their chosen theme. For last year’s Tree Week, Kushel chose the theme “Pyschetreelia,” centering her stunts on the psychedelic subculture of the 1960s

Armour, whose theme was “Man of the Treeople,” wanted his stunts to involve audience participation. 

“I get a lot of energy from interacting with people,” he said.

But he was cryptic about his favorite stunt: “All I’ll say is it involved a gallon bag of flour, 18 eggs, three oranges, a sexy cat costume and vinegar.”

As the 43rd Tree, Armour said he hopes to maintain the mascot’s wacky and fun legacy while recognizing the heightened responsibility he has as a public figure. 

“I wanna have a ton of fun and make a ton of friends, but I do not want to be put on probation,” Armour said, laughing. “There’s a balance to strike in there.”

Armour said he was most excited by the prospect of traveling the country, dancing and representing Stanford. 

He officially assumed the role at 4:30 on the morning of March 8, quickly adopting a hectic schedule between “sprout” games, Pac-12 tournaments, NCAA championships and rallies. 

“The metaphor that was given to me was ‘Imagine Kush[el] is driving me at 150 miles per hour, she throws a brick on the accelerator and bails out,’ and that’s the situation I am in now,” Armour said.

Just four days after his takeover, though, Armour found his job duties mostly limited to Twitter.

Stanford Athletics activities including “all competitions, practices, camps, clinics, and in-person recruiting activities” were “suspended until further notice” on March 12 due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, Stanford announced. The Tree is a member of the band, which is now housed under Stanford Athletics due to a change made this school year.

Armour expressed gratitude to Kushel and the former Trees for their ongoing support. 

“[Kushel] always said have fun with it and make it your own … this is your thing,” he said.

Part of the Tree tradition is the opportunity for each Tree to design its unique costume for their tenure as mascot. During spring quarter, the new Tree typically wears the costume of the prior one, though that will be unnecessary this year. During summer, the Tree is tasked with constructing a costume of their own. 

When asked for a hint on his costume theme, Armour replied with two words: “googly eyes.”

Contact Brooke Beyer at bbeyer ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Brooke Beyer '22 is a Desk Editor for the News section. She is originally from Los Altos, California but grew up in London and Singapore. Brooke is studying International Relations and English, with a focus on history and human rights.