Charitable efforts mark Clown Week

Posted: Wednesday, August 02, 2000

There's nothing like an official excuse to clown around.

For the first seven days of August, the members of Juneau's branch of Clowns of American International will celebrate Clown Week by doing projects for charity.

Activities will include assisting with Meals on Wheels on Friday and a food drive for the Southeast Alaska Food Bank from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Alaska and Proud market. Clowns will also visit the Juneau Pioneers' Home, greet tourists on the docks, be guests on Capitol Chat and gather for a celebratory dinner at the Hangar on the Wharf.

``(My) favorite part of Clown Week is, I think, greeting people, going downtown in costume,'' said Julie Isaac, whose clown name is J-J, short for Juneau-Joy. ``We greet the tourists and we pose with them, and we hug the kids.''

``A clown tries to be a big-as-life cartoon -- a living cartoon,'' added clown president Jim Burns, aka Buttons. ``We just put emphasis on it during Clown Week.''

Clown Week came about at the behest of President Nixon, who signed the event into law during his tenure in office. Today, it's celebrated all over the world.

``We have participated either officially or unofficially for the last five years,'' Burns said.

Last year, the clowns' food drive brought in more than 900 pounds of supplies for the food bank. Standing outside the doors of A&P, they trade balloon animals for items on the food bank's shopping list.

``We try to have a bunch of creative balloon structures,'' Burns said with a laugh.

The numbers of clowns who will participate is unknown; Burns and Isaac said there are 12 to 15 clowns in Juneau, but Burns said only six of them are active. They range in age from ``pre-teens to octogenarians,'' he added. The youngest member of the troop, Senaca Harper, aka Blue, is 12.

``He is an exceptionally talented young fellow,'' Isaac said. ``We've sort of taken him under our wing, and he is so quick to learn anything about clowning.''

For all the members of the troop, proper clown etiquette is important throughout the week. Smoking and drinking are not allowed while in costume -- and bringing a smile to the audience's face is imperative.

``We try to leave the smile with the other person and not make them seem foolish,'' Burns said. ``We tease people and stuff like that, but we want to leave them feeling good and not being the butt of the joke.''

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