If there is one event that still brings joy to folks young and old it’s a parade. We have them for Memorial Day, 4th of July, Veterans Day and the countless summer festivals, of course who can leave out the Thanksgiving Day parades and the arrival of old St. Nick himself. What a fun way to spend part of your day watching the marching bands, floats, fire trucks and various groups like the local Scout troupes making their way down the street. Perhaps you like the Shriners in their cool little cars buzzing around in formation, or the local dance school putting on a routine right there on Main Street. For many people it just wouldn’t be a parade with out the clowns. Years ago the Circus would have a parade down the main streets of town to advertise for the up coming shows. To see the enormous Pachyderms marching single file pulling the cages of wild animals was surely a treat. The clowns were always a hit many times riding atop one of the trailers playing in the clown band. The acrobats, jugglers and stilt walkers thrilled the crowd inviting everyone to see “the Greatest Show on Earth!”
So how about the clowns today - does your Clown Alley participate in your communities’ parades? If so what do you do? Clown bands are unfortunately not seen much these days, not even in the Circus. Let’s have a look at some ideas for you as you march those big floppy feet down the streets of town.
How to get involved:
Usually the Chamber of Commerce or City Hall will have information on joining your local parade. Typically it requires nothing more than filling out the participant form and turning it in for approval. I don’t think any one would deny having clowns in their hometown parade. This is a great PR move for your clown alley.
This is something that cannot be stressed enough, be cautious and aware of your surroundings in a parade. There are moving vehicles and floats that can’t easily maneuver around the parade route, so watch your step as you walk the parade route. When riding on a float, make sure that you are steady on your feet our have a safety rail to hold on to, even at slow speeds one could loose footing. When you dismount the float make sure the driver is well aware of passengers coming and going. We had a clown from our alley who seriously hurt her knee to the point of needing surgery due to a driver pulling forward while she had one foot on the ground and one still on the float. Also remember to stay hydrated out there have water on hand for the group. If at all possible, have a vehicle in the parade in case some one needs to sit sown and you can carry water and have a place to store props. The vehicle also can be decorated and advertise the name of your clown unit. Also for you stilt walkers, know the parade route, some parades may have extreme inclines that could make your walk difficult.
Time to have fun:
Now that we know to look both ways before entering a parade, let’s give you some ideas to please the crowd.
Smile and Wave to the on lookers as you walk the route; we are ambassadress of good cheer after all. Walking close to the crowd giving high fives and shaking hands is great too.
Clown Props are an awesome way to really go nuts with the crowd. They are lightweight and easy to carry so you won’t tire out from carrying heavy things. Running past the crowd gently “Bonking” folks with a jumbo Foam Hammer really makes them laugh. Grab your Giant Pair of Scissors and over sized Comb and offer free haircuts. One of my clown friends had a cool satchel made to carry her props down the parade route; it looks sort of like the old news carrier bags. This is also a perfect time for Juggling, the crowd loves to see clowns juggle and the supplies again are easy to carry.
This is very easy to do and works really well when the parade stops or hits a slow point. My friend Tippy and I will each choose a side of the parade route, as typically there are spectators on both sides of the street. We have a contest to see which side of the street can cheer the loudest. One clown starts with one side of the street, the second clown gets there side cheering, and this can go back and forth about three times before announcing a winner. Trust me, people go crazy for this and will going away smiling from this simple little game, not to mention, the people up the street will be wondering what magnificent thing is coming there way.
Use your clown hat as a prop. Wave to the crowd with it, fan yourself as if you are too hot, or trade someone in the crowd hats and pose with them for a picture. Drop your hat on the ground, as you walk towards it to pick it up, give your hat a kick so it scoots away from you. Continue this for a few steps and you will have the crowd roaring. This is a great bit for Hobos and Tramps Obviously you want to use a hat that can take a beating, many clowns will have specific shoes and costumes just for parades so that the really expensive gear does not get ruined.
Is it a good idea to pass things out like little toys or candy? Well yes, but the key word here is passing them out to the crowd, don’t throw them from a vehicle or from the middle of the street. Most parade coordinators have this as part of their rules; do not throw candy! The reasoning here is that the kids will run into the parade route to grab candy that has fallen to the ground and may get hurt. Children typically are sitting right at the curb of the street so we can easily walk right by and gently toss candy from a safe distance. Party supply stores also have large bags of little toys that also are nice for a handout but may be a bit more costly.
Not everyone can afford a cool little clown car but they certainly are a welcomed sight in a parade. The Clowns Around Redford, clown alley in the Metro Detroit area, had been fortunate to have a few members with various modes of clown transportation over the years. For a period of time Soomi and Snudek would be seen driving their clown mobile with its many accessories like a bubble machine and squirting windshield washers. Speedy has a really cool Model A style car that is fun to see going putt-putt-putt down the street or Apples the clown and his mini locomotive which even has a passenger car. Of course you can always decorate your own vehicle or even pull a trailer decorated like a parade float, this is also great for clowns who may not be able to walk and entire parade route. Just make sure that you are driving at safe speeds and watch for all the folks around you.
- Make sure that you and your group adhere to the parade coordinators rules; you want to get invited back of course!
- Be on time for the line up, there is nothing worse than trying to join a parade that is already on the move.
- Be cautious, remember you are around moving vehicles or are driving one yourself; people can still get hurt moving at slow speeds.
- Be courteous to those around you; make sure your skit does not interfere with one of the neighboring parade groups.
- Make sure your group has transportation back to the starting point. If you have walked a long parade route you may not have the energy to walk back to the staging area.
- Remember to have fun, be safe and stay hydrated.