Prickly Pete primed to promote Peoria

Prickly Pete has made appearances throughout Peoria in the last few months. (Photos courtesy city of Peoria)

When Peoria’s marketing department was looking for ways to promote everything the city has to offer, the staff came up with a cartoonish solution.

Its new mascot, Prickly Pete, a 6-foot tall, Peoria-themed cactus, makes appearances around the city at some of the top tourism attractions. To see his schedule an enter to win prizes, follow the Visit Peoria AZ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

“People — surprisingly to us — have taken a shine to him,” said Tim Eiden, the city’s marketing and communications manager.

“We don’t have to do that much promotion. They want him to take a picture with him. We have such a fantastic, positive reaction. He’s easy, happy and fun. I love the smile on his face. He makes everyone smile. We talk about him. We personified him, ‘Where’s Pete today?’”

The idea was a collective effort among the staff, Eiden said.

“It was one of those meetings where we were trying to figure out how to just get social media attention,” he said. “We were sitting around in a circle brainstorming and giggling. We thought about a penguin, because of the alliteration. Then we came up with Pete and Prickly Pete, then the cactus. We were laughing really hard.”

Prickly Pete was introduced a month ago during National Tourism Week. City staff immediately pushed him to the public. He made a stop at Rio Vista Community Park, which is equipped with bicycle repair stations. Prickly Pete has also made an appearance atop a mountain, which Eiden had to climb with the mascot.

“We had him at Rio Vista and somebody hung their bike on him,” Eiden said. “Thankfully it was a light bike. It’s so much fun for me to see the families and the little kids running over. It’s fun to see them interact and wave at Pete. There’s a teenager, Prickly Patricia, who dresses herself to match Pete, finds Pete and takes selfies. It’s the cutest thing.”

Prickly Pete ushers in the new circulator bus POGO and the city is working on a Prickly Pete-POGO mashup. They’re hoping to put Prickly Pete on a bus for a scavenger hunt sponsored by the two organizations.

“We’re just looking for ways to attract people and bring attention to all the great places we have to offer,” Eiden said. “That includes Lake Pleasant. We partner with Go Paddle AZ. We took him out there and put Pete in a kayak and took pictures all day. We had two gift certificates to raffle off.

“We’re accomplishing our job of promoting Peoria.”