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Pasadena man becomes a different person when he puts on the Happy costume

There's no mistaking Happy's impact when he's out and about during Pasadena Winter Carnival. Tim Spicer, the man who plays Happy, finds escape within the mascot's costume. - Carol Griffin photo
There's no mistaking Happy's impact when he's out and about during Pasadena Winter Carnival. Tim Spicer, the man who plays Happy, finds escape within the mascot's costume. - Carol Griffin photo - Contributed

It’s just two weeks to the start of Pasadena Winter Carnival and Tim Spicer is already wondering about what events he’ll attend. 

Tim Spicer
Tim Spicer

For Spicer that’s causing some anxiety, but it will lessen once he puts on the Happy the Snowman costume and steps out as the town’s official carnival mascot.

Spicer, 54, started playing Happy last year when his daughter Rachel was one of the ambassadors and he’d go to the events she was attending. He recalls seeing the previous Happy at one of those events.

“I was looking at Happy, and he wasn’t very happy," Spicer said.

He had some experience playing mascots for Kmart back in the 1980s and volunteered to take it on.

That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for Spicer it was huge. Spicer has some health issues, including obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression and epilepsy.

Those combined make it hard for him to get out.

He used to serve as a lay minister, but had to step back as he felt uncomfortable being in front of people.

Spicer saw playing Happy — the centre of attention during the entire carnival — as a way to get past that.

“This was an opportunity to prove a different side of me,” he said.

“And I don’t have to talk to anybody,” he added with a little laugh. “That was kind of appealing to me.”

When he puts on the suit, he feels changed.

“I don’t have to be Tim Spicer … I can be Happy the Snowman. I don’t have to be me. This is an opportunity to be someone else who is happy.”

And it shows in the effort he puts into attending events and through his actions. He’s visited businesses who support carnival just to say thanks for doing so, and has stood on Tenth Avenue waving people into Pasadena Place.

He learned to dab (a kids' dance move) at last year’s pre-teen dance. He laughs when he said it didn’t go so well when the kids tried to teach him to floss.

His most memorable experience was at the Everybody Moves event for adults with disabilities where there were lots of hugs and many pictures.

“They just wanted me to never leave.”

Being part of the carnival was also a great bonding experience with his daughter, Rachel, 18. She’s the second of his girls to be an ambassador as her sister Heather, 23, was an ambassador in 2013.

Spicer said he’s really surprised himself by becoming Happy.

“It takes my mind off being sad and depressed.”

Equally surprised is his wife Carole.

To see him go out and do what he did during the carnival was incredible, she said, especially given his anxiety prevents him from going to family functions when there’s a lot of people around.

“It doesn’t jive with the man who struggles,” she said.

She say's she's almost shocked by it, but, then again, she said there is a little Happy in her husband as well.

"He’s hilarious," she said. "He has the best sense of humour."

Pasadena’s winter carnival will run from Feb. 8-17.

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