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Angie Andersen Hits a Double as a Published Artist and as the Newest Mascot of the Cleburne Railroaders


Editor's Note: This is the second in a series entitled "What I Did on my Summer Vacation," in which we share stories focusing on the unique, remarkable achievements of CISD students over the summer.

              Cleburne High School junior Angie Andersen hit a double over the summer, in becoming a published artist and serving as the personality behind the newest mascot of the Cleburne Railroaders.

                Andersen’s entry in a student art competition sponsored by the North Central Texas Council of Governments was selected for the cover of their 2021 Progress North Texas transportation report, which came off the press in June.

                “Transportation for All” was the theme of the NCTCOG art contest in which students were asked to illustrate what the statement meant to them. Andersen submitted her design at the suggestion of Art II teacher, Raigan Swaim, who had shared the contest information with students.

                “I’ve been drawing since kindergarten,” Andersen said. “I used to get in trouble for drawing instead of doing my homework. Once my parents saw how much I enjoyed it, they bought me all kinds of art supplies. I took art in middle school and now, two years of high school. I’m taking architectural design this year because I plan on becoming an architect, but I want to take AP Art as a senior.”

                Andersen’s entry started out as a class assignment in which students were challenged to create a drawing in two-point perspective. Her piece featured a city street corner with multiple buildings, including an HVAC storefront—reflecting her father’s business, Andersen Air Conditioning—along with a bus stop sign and a bench.

                “I knew about the contest but didn’t think about entering,” she said. “When Ms. Swaim saw my drawing, she said if I added a car or another vehicle, it would be a great entry for the contest because of the transportation theme. I thought that was a cool idea.”

                “When I began to add things relating to transportation—for all—I thought about adults and kids. My dad had just bought a Corvette, so I put that in. I like to travel, so I drew an airplane flying overhead. I’ve always wanted roller skates, so I put a pair next to the bench, and also drew in a skateboard and a bicycle.”

                “Between Ms. Swaim’s encouragement and those of my classmates, I decided to go ahead submit my drawing,” she said. “I had no idea about winning. I always put my heart into my art, but never think about anything coming of it.”

                After entering the competition in March, Andersen eventually forgot about it. Busy with spring tennis and all the assignments and activities that came with the approaching end of school, her mind focused elsewhere. In mid-May, she received the news that she was the contest winner. Fellow CHS artist Jeremy Pugh took second place.

                Andersen got her first glimpse of her published art when the NCTCOG Transportation report was published on their website. But when she held the actual publication in her hand for the first time last week, a whole new feeling of accomplishment floated up.

                “It was so exciting to see it,” she said. “It’s a lot different holding it in front of you—I’d only seen it online. The drawing on the cover is much smaller than the actual one—but it’s huge in my eyes.”

                Andersen will be recognized for her achievement at the October 18 school board meeting by Cleburne ISD Trustees and representatives of NCTCOG.

                While seeing her winning artwork in print was a homerun in itself, Andersen had a second unique experience during her summer vacation, working for the Cleburne Railroaders as “Gandy” the new sidekick to Spike, who has been with the team since their first season.

                The teenager took on the persona of a whiskered little old man who was once a member of a railroad section crew, known as Gandy Dancers, back in the days of steam engines. Andersen, as “Gandy,” was an entertainer, cheerleader—and a bit of a mischief-maker—dedicated to making a night at the ballpark a fun, and memorable, experience for those attending.

                Executives in the Railroaders organization said Andersen batted a thousand as Gandy, and as a new member of their team family.

                “We wound up calling Angie ‘Gangie’ because she and Gandy made a great combination,” Marketing Manager Rory Niewenhouse said. “She did an amazing job as Gandy, in his debut season. She truly brought him to life and gave him an amazing personality.”

                “Everyone loved having him around, with the way ‘she’ interacted and engaged with fans,” he said. “Angie is a great person to be around; she always has a positive attitude. Everyone here at the Railroaders loves ‘Gangie’ and we can’t wait to have her back next season.”

                Andersen was encouraged to apply for the new mascot position by her friend and tennis teammate, Megan Baadsgaard, who is also Super Jacket, the Cleburne High School mascot. Baadsgaard had already accepted an offer from the Railroaders to take on the role of Spike.

                “Megan’s been doing the mascot thing since we were at Smith Middle School,” Andersen said. “She talked to me about being Gandy because the Railroaders were needing someone. I had never thought about being a mascot--or being paid to be one. It just sounded fun. I’ve known Megan for a long time and I think that friendship helped us put together some of the things we did as Gandy and Spike.”

                “When I put the costume on for the first time, I thought, ‘is that me?’ It was very odd to be a 16- year-old girl playing an old man. Now, when I’m tired, I say I feel old like Gandy.”

                “This experience brought out the child inside me,” Andersen said. “No one knows who you are in there—and there are not a lot of rules to follow. I could do just about anything I wanted—if it was funny and good. Gandy never made fun of the other team or the umpires, but he was a lot more outgoing than I am. He wound up being my way of doing things I would not, because as Angie, I don’t have that kind of confidence. But I do when I’m in that costume.”

                From ‘accidentally’ spilling popcorn on fans as she ‘accidentally’ tripped down the stairs, to inviting complete strangers to a dance off, Andersen quickly made Gandy a crowd favorite. Benny the Bull, the longtime mascot of the Chicago Bulls, became an inspiration, motivating her to try new antics.

                “Angie really brought life to the stadium,” Taylor Robinson, Railroaders social media and community relations manager said. “She did a great job getting the fans involved and excited. Her attitude when she was in that mascot suit was the same without it—she is so energetic and always smiling. She truly lights up a room—and a ballpark. You can tell she loves what she does.”

                Through her summer experiences, Andersen has learned what can come from pushing the envelope--and mastering the ability to laugh at yourself.

                “I don’t get embarrassed when I fall anymore,” she said. “I say I’m like Gandy, just being funny. I would be so tired, or having the worst day, but when I put on that costume, it became the best day ever. It was so wonderful to have kids coming up to you and hugging you.”

                “I’m a baseball fan now—a Railroaders fan,” Andersen said. “Before the game was over, or when that suit just got too hot, I would take it off, go sit in the stands and yell for the Railroaders. It was my team out there. Looking back, it was all so fun, so great. This will definitely be a story I can tell my kids one day. It’s been a summer I will never forget.”