Posted Nov 1, 2012 By Laurie Weir
Shrine Klowns fold up the costumes, First ladies close the makeup cases
EMC News - Who will send in the clowns?
No one now... the Land 'O Lakes Tunis Shrine 'Klowns' and Facepainters are no longer in service.
The men, and their first ladies - have officially retired from clowning around and painting faces at local fairs, festivals, parties and events.
There was still some joking around last week though, and balloon animals were made, photos were taken, and laughter could be heard coming from Lannin Funeral Home in Smiths Falls. It seemed like a fitting place to gather for their last official gig.
The funeral home's owners Bill and Sue Anne Hilton welcomed the group. Bill Hilton was a potentate of the Tunis Shriners, so he offered the chapel as a place for portraits.
"We're getting too old for this and there is no one to take our places," said Ron Stronski, otherwise known as Ronski the Clown.
The men behind the masks are all seniors.
J.J., who is Perth's John Hauraney, is 83.
"I've been doing this for 27 years," Hauraney said. "The trouble is, there are no young people coming in to take our place. We can't do it anymore."
"It's sad really," said Roco who is Robert Cosh, 64. "I will still be a clown though for the Ottawa Shriners. I don't want to give it up."
Cosh loves his alter ego. "It's a relief to be a clown," he says. "It gives you a subset... I don't take things too seriously."
Jim Cassibo, who is Pockets the Clown, takes after his father, Clarence, who was also a Shriner Clown.
"My father was 'Pops'," said Cassibo, now 66. "He was one of the original clowns."
Cassibo says he gave away all of his father's costumes. "It's gone - as is his persona... the name, everything."
The face-painting by the women in the group came about the same time.
Beryle Beckett of Smiths Falls says her late husband Omar, who was a long-time Shriner, got her involved.
"You should have seen the first 'faces' we painted," she said with a laugh. "They were white balloons with those little cardboard feet... well the faces we painted were no hell."
Connie Ryan, another original face painter, also recalled the early beginnings.
"We had a little pup tent we used," she said. "It had a kitchen stool."
With practice, the women became better painters and took their makeup cases on the road, accompanying their husbands to fairs and festivals where children lined up to be turned into lions and tigers and even butterflies with sparkles.
The Shrine Klowns are as popular as popcorn and candy floss at local fairs, events, festivals and parades. They start in the spring and travel with the women - who have also officially retired as face painters - all over eastern Ontario. From Perth's Maple Festival through to Elgin Heritage Days, Maberly and Richmond fairs, to name a few, the clowns are part of the scenery during special events throughout the community.