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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Sikeston Shriners shine when it comes to clowning around

Thursday, September 19, 2002

A Shriner clown makes his way along a parade route
(photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- People know Shriner clowns by their presence at parades, nursing homes and other places. They see the clowns riding in their Jitney bus and on their small bikes in parades.

But not many people outside of the Semo Shrine Club realize how much the clowns love their clowning.

"We all enjoy it," said Bud Myers, also known as "Frosty" when he's suited up in his clown attire. "We're not professional clowns but we try to be as jubilant as we can be."

The Semo Shrine Club originated in 1976 with about four members. At one time the club grew to 30 members, and today the club is comprised of approximately 14 members, Club Secretary of Treasury and original member Ken Stallings said.

It's a local club within a local club, Myers added. Semo Shriners is a division of the Moolah Temple Shriners of St. Louis. Each Semo Shrine clown is a member of Masonic Lodge 310 AF and AM, whose members range from Malden to Scott City.

The clowns appear in different parades, like the Cotton Carnival, which was one of the first parades the Shriner clowns did and they will be back again this year. Sponsors donate money to the club, and the collected revenue at the end of the year is given to the Shriners Children's Hospital in St. Louis.

"We do it to help our crippled kids walk," Stallings said about being a clown.

Clown Director Bill Johnson joined Shriner clowns two years ago after his retirement and move from Memphis. Johnson, or "Quickdraw" as he's known in the clown unit, has always wanted to be a Shriner clown, but his job transfers over the years have kept him from doing so.

"I've been with the clown unit for two years," Johnson said. "My two sons are Shriner clowns and so is my son-in-law. We're the only ones I know of that has four family members in one unit."

Throughout the years, Shriner clowns have appeared at area parades, walk arounds, special events and Shrine functions. For example, from now until the beginning of November, once a month, Shriner clowns are greeting customers at Market Place in Sikeston. The clowns will also appear in the Matthews Parade Saturday. At these events, the clowns tie balloons, do magic tricks and provide entertainment for adults and children.

"It's very exciting to have little kids happy to see us," said Myers, who's been a clown since 1978. "Once in a while we get cried at, and then we just stay at arms length from those kids. We pass out candy to the kids, and that helps." Stallings, whose clown name is "Patches," said the club has a variety of clowns. They have a tramp, hobo, character and white-face clowns.

The older members teach the new Shriners who want to be clowns how to put on make-up, wear their costumes and how to act like a clown, Stallings said.

"We teach them all-around clowning," Stallings said. "We teach the next generation so they'll be prepared to carry on the tradition."

Shriner clowns also follow make-up and costume standards that coincide with the International Shrine Clown Association. They want to be as authentic as possible.

"We try to keep everything in good taste," Myers assured. "We don't want to embarrass anyone."

One thing visitors of parades remember about the Shriner clowns is their mode of transportation -- a Jitney bus. Myers said, the Jitney, which is a Filipino taxi, was given to the Semo Shrine Club from an organization out of Cape Girardeau.

"When we got it, there wasn't a motor or anything in it," Myers noted. "It was just the body. We fixed it up and painted it with a bunch of bright colors."

Area residents will have another opportunity to see the Shriner clowns, their Jitney bus and small bikes in action beginning at 10 a.m. at the 58th Annual Cotton Carnival Parade Sept. 28.

Sept. 24

5 p.m. - Carnival opens

Armbands, good on any ride, can be purchased for $15.

6-10 p.m. -TLC Experience will entertain

Sept. 25

5 p.m. - Carnival opens

Ride special: Every ride is one coupon less

7:30 p.m. - Little Mr. and Miss Cotton Carnival Contest

Sept. 26

5 p.m. - Carnival opens

8 p.m. - Junior Miss Sikeston Contest

Sept. 27

5 p.m. - Carnival opens

10 p.m. - Miss Sikeston Contest

Sept. 28

10 a.m. - Carnival opens

Wristbands can be purchased for $15 for use from noon to 5 p.m.

10 a.m. - Cotton Carnival Parade

12:30 p.m. Miss Cotton Carnival Contest

6-11 p.m. Decade will entertain