YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Recent reports indicate there is a shortage of clowns. Membership in the World Clown Association has dropped 30 percent in 10 years.
Youngstown has its own clown community. The Aut Mori Grotto clowns have entertained in the Valley for years. And as it turns out, there is a shortage there too.
Alan Boles, his brother Jesse, Ed Steiner and George McClelland range in age from 56 to 70. These four Aut Mori Grotto clowns gathered Tuesday at the Grotto Hall on Belle Vista Avenue in Youngstown and demonstrated what it takes to be a clown, with hopes of recruiting.
“In the last few years, we’ve noticed the clown shortage,” said McClelland.
“We’re having a hard time getting the younger kids involved,” added Jesse Boles.
Today there are 40 Grotto Clowns, 20 of whom are active. But the most important number, and the key to the survival of clowns, is the average age, which among the Grotto’s is 62. There’s nobody coming up behind them.
“If you like touching someone’s heart, this is for you,” said Alan Boles. “If you like being a person that’s remembered, this is for you.”
Steiner said the joy he sees in the faces of those he entertains is enough to keep him clowning around.
“Just to see the twinkle in a child’s face, or to see an older person in a hospital bed brighten up,” said Steiner.
With the makeup finished, it was time for the clothes, multi-colored socks, wigs of hair, hats of different shapes and sizes, shoes too big, and glasses too large. But a clown is not a clown until he puts on the nose.
Alan Boles becomes Chef Itso, Jesse Boles is transformed into Pokey, Ed Steiner became a hobo named Steyme, and George McClelland becomes Oddball. Pokey says he pays $400 for a costume, and he has five.
The group does about 60 performances a year.
“I would tell any person that wants to become a clown that you will get more out of this than you can give somebody else,” said Alan Boles.