ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
The 76th annual Marion County Fair will bring its own version of fun by “Exploring the Magic” with fair attractions and events for people of all ages Aug. 9-12 in Hillsboro.
Among the new features this year will be clowning veteran Mikeyyy and his clown parade.
“My vision is to have 75 clowns participate in the fair parade,” said Mikeyyy the Clown, who plans to recruit clowns county-wide to be part of the fair’s opening night event on Wednesday as well as to walk around at nightly activities on the fair grounds.
“(People) go to a parade and they want to have fun,” Mikeyyy said. “When they see a clown, they just laugh.”
In June, Mikeyyy the Clown attended the Marion County Fair board meeting and brought a proposal to “add some spice” to this year’s parade.
“We are hoping to spread the word-clowns wanted!” Mikeyyy said about his goal of 75 clowns. “Now, wouldn’t that really jack up that parade?”
The fair board gave its blessing.
“We thought it was a really good idea because it was a fun way to get the community more involved and a safer way to hand out candy,” said fair manager Gina Andrews.
“It will add something new to the parade,” she said. “We have a few clowns every year, but not anything near what he wants to get for this year.”
Mikeyyy plans to draw clowns from throughout Marion County. He intends to make one-on-one visits as well as send letters to interested businesses.
“I’ve seen clowns everywhere,” he said. “Every town in this county, I’ve seen some clowns out there. We see potential clowns all the time, don’t we?”
According to Mikeyyy, clowning provides an easy-and somewhat anonymous-outlet for expressing one’s creativity.
“You just go out and put on the face paint,” he said. “People don’t know who you are. You can be as silly as you want. It is fun.”
Mikeyyy’s approach to clowning is considered one of the most common.
According to www.cheesecakeandfriends.com, clown types usually fit into one of four major categories: whiteface, Auguste, tramp/hobo and character.
Mikeyyy’s appearance, according to the Web site, is classic “grotesque whiteface.”
Mikeyyy covers his face with white grease paint and exaggerates his eyes with blue paint and his mouth with red paint.
“This is a new nose-I’m trying to breath through it,” Mikeyyy said about the tomato-red one he wears. “I’m going to have to cut the holes bigger.”
His clown costume wouldn’t be complete without the bright blue T-shirt, a slightly oversized men’s suit and scruffy black gloves.
Mikeyyy has been in the clowning business for about 30 years.
“I got started in Lindsborg, parading for the Hyllningsfest,” he said.
Svensk Hyllningsfest is the Lindsborg’s Swedish festival celebrated biennially in October.
“I was just newly married and my father-in-law asked me if I would be a clown with the sponsorship of his business on my back,” he said. “I did it for the money the first time, but it’s such a joy. You can do anything silly and people laugh.”
Those who volunteer as clowns can hand out balloons, do magic or help with dispensing candy in the parade.
“That is a nice, safer way,” said Mikeyyy. “I myself have jumped off my unicycle many times when a little child runs out.
“I may scare the livin’ daylights out of (the child), but at least they’re not run over.”
Also, businesses can use clowns to promote themselves and add to the fair festivities.
“Even if (businesses are) not sponsoring a float, what is cheaper than finding a family member or friend and having them be a clown and posting a sign on their back?” Mikeyyy said.
Of course, Mikeyyy plans to ride his unicycle in the fair parade.
“You can do all kind of things with the unicycle-play air guitar, dance with it, dance on it,” he said.
But getting made up as a clown takes some time.
“It depends whether you want the grease paint or water-based paints,” Mikeyyy said. “When it comes to clown makeup, if you do the full white face, it takes at least an hour.”
The nearest places to purchase face paint, according to Mikeyyy, are Theatrical Services and Kay’s This N That in Wichita.
To make it easier for volunteers, Mikeyyy said his agent, Mike Ball of Hillsboro, is offering to assist clowns who need help applying makeup and getting ready for the fair parade.
Mikeyyy said he’ll have various colors of grease paint to use-black, green, blue, red and white.
“I’m real good friends with Mike-I’m always over at his house,” Mikeyyy said about Ball and wife Coleen’s willingness to help. Arrangements with the Balls can be made by calling 947-3499.
Mikeyyy said he also encourages families to consider participating together as clowns.
“I have a child and he clowns with me many times,” Mikeyyy said.
One of his clown acquaintances who makes regular appearances in the Lindsborg parade brings three generations of clowns on stilts, he added.
Anyone is eligible to enter the Clown Parade for the fair, Andrews said, and there’s no entry fee.
“People can even bring their dogs as clowns in the parade,” she said. “We’re really excited about it because it’s a fun way to add something to the parade this year.”
Individuals can volunteer as clowns or businesses can sponsor clowns to wear their logos and promote products and services.
Volunteer clowns are asked to call the Marion County Fair office at 947-3506.
“If prospective clowns need help with costumes or makeup,” Andrews said, “we will gladly refer them to Mikeyyy the Clown.”