The Beat the Peak campaign started in the late 1970s in Tucson. It was launched by Tucson Water as a way to reduce water usage during the hot summer months. The Beat the Peak campaign was a huge success and featured a mascot named Pete the Beak. He was featured in several music videos throughout the 1980s. “I like a challenge and that’s kind of what it was,” said Phyllis Klingenfus. The challenge for Klingenfus back in 1983, was to design and make the Pete the Beak costume. In the spring of ’83, Phyllis Klingenfus and her husband Bob owned Creative Costumes in Tucson. Someone from the city asked her to create Pete the Beak. “It was a drawing that he gave me on a piece of paper,” Klingenfus said. “What it looked like was a yellow Daffy Duck. That’s what I went with.”Forty years later, Klingenfus still has the patterns she hand made for the costume. “I did it several times,” said Klingenfus, referring to the pattern she made for the beak. “Because proportion was important.” The first music video in 1986 featured Pete the Beak and the Tucson band Street Pajama. “Pretty exciting,” Klingenfus said when she first saw the commercial. The Beat the Peak campaign was a major success, reminding Tucson to water only ever other day and never water between 4 and 8 p.m. “The Beat the Peak campaign was incredibly successful in Tucson,” said Natalie DeRoock from Tucson Water. “Many Tucsonans can remember the campaign from when they were children, seeing Beat the Peak on television and hearing about Pete the Beak in school. What was the real success of the campaign was that we really were able to connect with the younger generation in Tucson and teach this generational water conservation ethic that still follows through today.”Tucson Water updated the costume in later years, but you can still find the original Pete the Beak costume at the their headquarters downtown. Klingenfus parlayed the success of Pete the Beak into making other memorable costumes. “Made Sunny Sun Tran, that’s a big yellow, I don’t think they even use it anymore,” remembered Klingenfus. “The reason for it was helping children learn how to use the public transportation. That was real successful. That head was as large as my round kitchen table.” Phyllis and Bob sold off the costume shop and are now retired, living on Tucson’s eastside. They still look back fondly at the “Absolutely Arizona” costume, which helped change Tucson’s watering habits four decades ago. Tucson Water says the success of the Beat the Peak campaign is still felt. Despite the rapid growth of Tucson in the past 30 years, we use the same amount of water.
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