‘For the love of smiles and joy’

Clowning around at a summer event are Clown Around members, left to right, Moe-Dum (Shawn Sullivan, Monticello), Lock Jaw (Dale Kottke, St. Michael), Dotz (Cora Beth Parker, St. Michael), and Odie (Dallas Odell – Monticello).

Clowning around at a summer event are Clown Around members, left to right, Moe-Dum (Shawn Sullivan, Monticello), Lock Jaw (Dale Kottke, St. Michael), Dotz (Cora Beth Parker, St. Michael), and Odie (Dallas Odell – Monticello).

The Clown Arounds volunteer to make days brighter

When Cora Parker of St. Michael retired several years ago, she went right back to school … or in this case camp.

She always loved dressing up and entertaining children, even dressing up as a “big black chicken” to entertain visitors are “big” birthday events, like for people turning 40 or 75.

“I’ve always had an interest in clowns,” Parker said. “So when I retired I decided I was going to clown camp. I had been in my bucket list long enough.”

Cora Parker of St. Michael is Dotz the Clown. She became a clown after retiring a few years ago and learning the trade at an annual clown camp in Buffalo. She belongs to The Clown Arounds, a volunteer group that performs “for the love of joy.”

Cora Parker of St. Michael is Dotz the Clown. She became a clown after retiring a few years ago and learning the trade at an annual clown camp in Buffalo. She belongs to The Clown Arounds, a volunteer group that performs “for the love of joy.”

And she didn’t have to travel far, joining the Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp in Buffalo, run by noted clown Tricia Manuel (“Priscilla Mooseburger”). Manuel was a professional clown with Ringling Brothers. She hosts the camp every year, with 100 clowns coming in from all over the world. About 20 instructors help Manuel lead the camp.

“It is just top notch instructors, a week of non-stop fun,” Parker said.

She said All forms of clowns are addressed. There’s Clowning 101 for new clowns, how to do faces, how you perform how to stand, building props, face painting, writing skits, puppetry, clown ministry, caring clowns, magic and more.

“There’s more classes than you can get into,” Parker said.

As she got to know other clowns from the area, she discovered The Clown Arounds club that was formed in Maple Lake in 2006.

“A bunch of people went to clown camp and thought, ‘What do we do now?’ ”

So The Clown Arounds were born, starting with eight adults and two children started. Today there are 34 members aged 9 to 78, “and we’re looking for more,” she said.

The Clown Arounds come mostly from Wright County cities like St. Michael, Rockford, Delano, Monticello, Buffalo, Annandale and Dassel, and other cities like St. Cloud and Hutchinson.

The group keeps active this time of year mostly visiting nursing homes, where they do clown shows for the residents.

“Oh we have so much fun with those homes!” Parker said. “We do at least one nursing home per month.”

The Clown Arounds also work with Families and Youth Community Connections (FYCC) events in St. Michael, Albertville and Hanover. They did a big clown show in January at STMA Middle School West during the FYCC Grandparents and Grandchildren event, selling out 220 persons.

“We do birthday parties, church events, magic shows, grade shows, libraries …” she said, and all for not one dime’s pay.

“It’s a labor of love,” she said. “We are doing it for the love of smiles, for the joy.”

The gang will be performing its tasks at the upcoming Maple Lake St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Parker said the members don’t always dress up as clowns, such as at the St. Patrick’s Parade, where they will dress as “Irish Washer Women” (yes, even the guy clowns). During Christmas-time, the group dresses up as Santa, Mrs. Santa and Father Christmas, and they also do the Easter Bunny.

In summer, the group is at its busiest with parades almost every weekend, and charity events, meet-and-greets, children meetings, autism events, March of Dimes, face painting and balloon twisting.

“And we do reading in the parks in summer,” she said. “We’re just so busy in summer and many of us do things individually.”

Capping off a busy summer is the annual all-star clown show in Buffalo. This year’s event is Saturday, Aug. 2, at the Civic Center, and all events are free.

Though the group never passes a hat at its events, Parker said they do take donations from places like Wright-Hennepin Electric, especially for sound systems. Because they visit so many senior residences, they must use microphones but specifically need expensive lapel mikes since they need to use their hands so much.

“We’re always looking for a little help but we never ask for donations during the show,” Parker said.

Those interested in the clowns can call Parker at 763-428-7916, or email TheClownArounds@gmail.com, or check out their Facebook page.

“We love sharing some smiles around town,” she said. Our logo is ‘Spreading Joy Around the Town.’ We just have a blast.”

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