Loring Stead's definition of a casting call may differ from the general population, but it's often endeared him to his youngest patients.
The veteran podiatrist at Olmsted Medical Center has been collecting his favorite casts throughout his 30-plus year career. His favorites are currently displayed on a Cast Wall of Fame in the room next to his office, periodically changing as creative colorings are cut off.
The quirky cast collection was created in 1989 when Stead's daughter, Danielle, then a pre-schooler, saw a young patient sporting an elaborate rending of "The Little Mermaid" on her cast. Obsessed with Ariel and Flounder, Danielle urged her father to keep the work of art rather than throwing it out.
Nearly 30 years later, the original cast continues to headline the display.
"She (Danielle) said when we take it off we should keep it," Stead said. "The Little Mermaid … will never leave."
As the shelf filled up around Ariel, some simply marveled at the oddities while others sought to displace them. It's since become a competitive, agonizing process that's a unique talker around the OMC water cooler.
The loquacious doctor is always soliciting outside opinions about how to rank the casts so he's prepared when the next great piece of artwork arrives.
"Kids come back here to see it and they want to make the Cast Wall of Fame," Stead said. "The hard part is telling them they didn't quite make it. We're hard core."
(Disclosure: Stead has casted this reporter three times, including once last month. None of those casts has made the wall of fame. I get paid to write, not draw.)
The current collection includes a clown, a beach scene, a Christmas scene and an ode to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, among other things. The latest promotion was a black cast that had been painted with anatomically-correct bones from the shin down. Many casts required elaborate cuts to preserve the artwork once patients have healed.
Stead says he's had preliminary conversations about displaying the cast collection in downtown Rochester, but details are still being worked out.
The clown cast in particular is a source of frustration for Stead. He readily admits it'd never meet today's standards to enter the wall of fame — while he also contends that it may never come down.
"It was the first clown ever and it's creepy," Stead said.
Those quirks are unlikely to surprise those who have known him well. He's a man of diverse interests who isn't afraid to put himself out there.
For example, the folicly-challenged father of three donned a wild wig last winter while competing in Rochester's "Dancing for the Arts" before rocking to Van Halen. He's traveled to multiple track and field world championships as part of Team USA's medical team, but has avoided the Olympics due to his own safety concerns.
His philanthropic efforts include volunteering at an orphanage in Honduras, among other things.
A common thread through it all is competition, either personally or by helping injured athletes. That's also true for the wall of fame, where Stead's allegiance is always front and center. He's rotated through dozens of purple casts that have been given horns to support the Minnesota Vikings over the past three decades; two separate versions are currently on display.
Just don't try to sneak in any cheesehead casts. No matter the quality or creativity, Stead says anything supporting the Green Bay Packers is automatically disqualified.
"Faith, family, friends and football — that's always the foundation," Stead said of the Vikings' casts. "But these two (casts) aren't going anywhere."