Sunday, June 7, 2009
Shriners gather in Billings
Shriners from all over the Pacific Northwest were in Billings on Saturday to entertain a crowd of youngsters.
About 700 Shriners from 18 temples participated in a parade through downtown Billings as Shriners from Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Alaska and Canada traveled to the Magic City for the Pacific Northwest Shrine Association conference.
This weekend was a rare opportunity to see the parade since the conference comes to Billings only every 10 years.
The group supports 22 Shriner's children's burn and orthopedic hospitals across North America.
For the first time in nearly a decade Shriners from all over the Pacific Northwest are competing in Billings.
From buggies to music to painted faces the Pacific Northwest Shrine Association is hosting its annual competition this year in Billings.
"It's a good turnout, it's better than the last couple years. The economy's not the best but still they come to Billings, Montana to have fun," says Al Bedoo Shriner and Director General of the event Dick Paul.
Along with having fun, there's a goal in mind.
"So we can make more awareness that we do help kids and that's what Shriners function is. To help children have fun, help children defy the odds," says Al Bedoo Shriner and PNSA President Larry Tipton.
The Shrine Auditorium is jam-packed with Shriners from 18 different temples across the Northwest. Inlcuding: Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Canada.
"The last time we had the PNSA in Billings was 2001 and the first one we had was probably back in, I think the 1920s or 1930s," says Tipton.
And there's a legend among the Shriners who dates back even longer and has been clowning around for most of his life.
"Anything would happen in school, well the teacher would always say, 'Floyd! Behave yourself!' So I guess I could say I've been a clown all my life," says Shrine Clown Floyd Creekmore, also known as "Creeky."
The 92 year old clown learned at a young age the ins and outs of what it takes to be a clown.
"Well, they say that a professional is somebody that gets paid. Well my dad gave me a nickel once to shut up. And so I guess I'm a professional," says Creeky
Creeky has been a Shrine Clown for nearly 30 years and before that he was an independent one. And as for calling it quits, he says he's thought about it.
"I keep thinking about retiring but what the heck! I'll keep going until I have to quit," says the clown.
But Creeky admits growing older as a clown can have its obstacles.
"I don't expect to win today because I have too many wrinkles. It takes too much make-up to fill all my wrinkles. But I will keep it up as long as I can," admits Creeky.
And the legendary clown will continue to fill those wrinkles as long as children reap the benefits in the end.
Since 1922, Shriners Hospitals for Children have improved the lives of more than 865,000 children.