MENOMONIE — Maybe people voting for a new Menomonie school district nickname liked the term Mustangs because it portrays a strong, independent animal. Or maybe they simply liked the alliteration of the words "Menomonie Mustangs."
Whatever the reason, about 1,250 people, many of them Menomonie students, chose the Mustangs moniker as the new district nickname, replacing Indians. Other finalist nicknames included the Lumberjacks and Mavericks.
"Mustangs sounds powerful," Katie Zarbock, Menomonie High School student council president, said of the Mustangs moniker. "It was more clear-cut than some of the other choices."
Most students attending a pep rally at which the nickname was announced cheered the choice, while others greeted the announcement with jeers.
Zarbock, a senior, actually favored the Lumberjacks nickname. But she said most students and the community will embrace the Mustangs nickname.
"I think it's good we finally have something we can do something with," Zarbock said.
Freshman Brett Lindsay agreed.
"I think it's a good name," he said of Mustangs. "It's a strong, independent animal."
If the Mustangs nickname sounds familiar, there is a reason. In 1996 the Menomonie school board voted to replace the longtime Indians nickname with Mustangs. That controversial action prompted a recall election the following year in which three board members who had voted in favor of the Mustangs nickname were voted off of the board.
In May 1997 the board voted to return to the Indians nickname and logo. The district did not use the Indians mascot after the nickname was reinstated.
The issue of American Indian-related nicknames and logos used by Wisconsin school districts was revived last year when then-Gov. Jim Doyle signed a law allowing the state schools superintendent to ban Indian nicknames, mascots and logos based on complaints by district residents.
In June Menomonie school board members decided to drop the Indians nickname and logo. District officials hadn't received a formal complaint but decided to do away with the moniker.
In many other school districts with Indian-related nicknames, including Osseo-Fairchild, school officials received complaints from residents and have been forced to get rid of nicknames and mascots with Indian references. The Osseo-Fairchild district has not chosen a new nickname or mascot.
During the pep rally, Menomonie High School Principal David Munoz said a committee will plan an exhibit that will include the retired Indian logo as well as other school district history.
"This decision embraces our past with honor, pride and dignity, and acknowledges us looking forward," Munoz said, prior to the cheerleaders doing a cheer to announce the Mustangs nickname.
Superintendent Chris Stratton told students while the U.S. owes much to the Native American culture, it is time for the district to move forward and choose another nickname and logo.
School board President Colleen Davis agreed.
"I feel really good," she said. "I guarantee with Homecoming coming (next week), students will be engaged with this."
The Menomonie school district is sponsoring a contest to design a logo in conjunction with the district's new Mustangs nickname. Rules for the competition will be posted on the district website, msd.k12.wi.us, on Tuesday, Sept. 27. The contest goes through much of October, and the school board is expected to choose a logo by the end of October. Officials hope to eventually create a Mustangs mascot as well.