Swooping into wedding receptions: The St. Joe's Hawk

Wedding crasher: Staci Dougherty, here with groom Steve Parent (left) and her father, John, bask in the presence of a flapping Hawk.
Wedding crasher: Staci Dougherty, here with groom Steve Parent (left) and her father, John, bask in the presence of a flapping Hawk. (Courtesy of Staci Dougherty)
Posted: July 30, 2014

The bride already had danced her first dance with the groom, and with her father. Then she heard this sports jam, a song she recognized but one that definitely had not been approved for the playlist.

"Everyone was looking around," Staci Dougherty said. "Then he flew in with his wings out."

The St. Joseph's Hawk had crashed another wedding.

It turns out this is a regular thing. John Dougherty had arranged it for his daughter's April reception in Wallingford, Delaware County. Father and daughter had walked together at St. Joe's graduation in 2009 after both had gotten their master's degrees there.

"We always joke about the Hawk being another member of our family," Staci Dougherty said. "It kind of made it complete. Both my brothers and my husband went there."

On a day full of vows meant to last, why not add the eternally flapping Hawk, the school's great symbol of a bond that will not break?

Ian Klinger figures he did about 30 weddings in the last two years when he was the Hawk. Once, he did three in a day. He'd often walk into the reception in Clark Kent mode, "with my disguise of a shirt, tie and jacket, I was able to blend into the crowd."

After slipping away to change into his musty suit, Klinger found that his one job requirement stayed the same. What does the Hawk do at these receptions? What do you think?

"You do one thing and you just do it over and over," Klinger said. "I don't do any acrobatics. I flap."

Any difference when it comes to wedding flaps? The Hawk said no. "Every flap is a game-ready flap," he said.

The Hawk also pockets a little cash from these appearances, so he's happy to do them. Brian Lafferty just took over after a year as the Hawk at women's games. (He gets a scholarship, endowed since 1992. Another side note: You can hire the Hawks mascot for your wedding, but not a Hawks player. That would be an NCAA violation.)

In taking over those wedding duties, Lafferty did two on the same day in June, one in Springfield, Delaware County, one in the city.

"It was fun," Lafferty said of his rookie appearance. "I was introduced as a member of the wedding party."

"It was a surprise to our guests," said Victoria Vacante, a 2009 St. Joe's grad, along with her husband, Andrew. "He was really wonderful, he was high-fiving everyone."

At his next appearance downtown, the Hawk was a surprise to the bride and groom, Leslie and Dan Durkin, so he brought along flowers for the bride, hidden under his wing. He ran into the place with the Hawks fight song playing, doing his traditional figure eights. It was all arranged by the bride's best friend, Amy Flemming, herself a Hawk.

The only wedding advice the old Hawk has for the new Hawk is to be especially careful of sudden movements at the receptions, that it's hard to see someone moving in for a photo with a drink in his hand. Also, be careful not to hit servers walking by.

The only assignment Klinger didn't really enjoy was a reception in Northern Pennsylvania. He was fine making the trip but surprised to find out they only wanted a couple of quick photos. Overall, though, he enjoyed the whole wedding thing.

"I loved meeting the alumni, seeing that St. Joe's spirit," said Klinger, who starts an accounting job in August.

One of his favorite wedding surprises, the Hawk said, was arriving at a reception and seeing it was an Indian wedding, with everyone in the wedding party in traditional garb.

When Klinger did his roommate's brother's reception, "I have like 90-year-old aunts who wanted to go up and take pictures with the Hawk," said Jonathan Hayek, the groom that day.

Of course, the Hawk isn't the only "outsider" who does weddings around here. You want Ben Franklin at your reception, he'll be there for a price.

"We had the Mummers come in right after [the Hawk]," said John Dougherty, father of the bride.

At that wedding, the Hawk had been in his car waiting for the signal to come in. As usual, he was a hit with the Hawk-centric crowd, although not all the guests were St. Joe's grads.

"Some people thought it was the Temple Owl at first," the bride said.


mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus

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