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Clown Day: A Utah Tradition

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Clown Day: A Utah Tradition

by some clown

When was the last time you put on a rainbow wig, a big red nose, and shoes five sizes to big? Imagine all of your friends getting so decked out in clown makeup that no one was familiar. You become this anonymous pack of clowns. The tourists laugh and stare. You’re putting smiles on their normal faces on top of their normal fashions. You tell them they can join you, but they have to put their clothes on backwards. There are no takers. You don’t need drugs…you’re the joker, you’re the clown shaking everything up and making people laugh.

Funny thing is, not everyone thinks you’re so funny. The backdrop of this year’s Clown Day at Snowbird was the police presence. Word from the Street was police were ready to give ‘inciting a riot’ tickets to any clowns on the slopes. No tickets were given out, but Clown Day went underground at this year. The day went on with celebrations at Solitude and of course, Park City. The mother of all Clowns, Park City, gave her clowns free range.

There’s a history behind Clown Day and all of its merrymakers. In the raging 70’s, Clown Day started with a parade on Main Street, hit the slopes and went from there. A victim of its own success, the party hardy attitude got a little too party, and Clown Day was shut down, technically, and most people agreed that it was probably a decision made in the interest of public safety. But Clown Day didn’t go away just because they said it should. There’s a spirit behind this day that goes beyond the party, the drugs, and the silly outfits.There’s something about those silly outfits.

Clown Day was forced underground when Park City’s infamous ‘clown clause’ was born, stating that no clown outfits were to be allowed on the lifts. The party shifted to other resorts. Its band of merry pranksters was clever enough to keep the spirit alive. They snuck clown suits up, under clothes and by chopper drop. They risked repercussion and ridicule, sneaking around like freedom fighters just for the chance to dress and act like a clown.

There is camaraderie amongst these clowns. They come in all shapes, sizes and outfits, but you know a fellow clown when you see one. On the lift ride up, you and all the clowns sing the circus theme—BA da dada bada da da dada, and wonder if they can really arrest you for dressing like a clown. What would the charge be? You shout at each other, “Hey you…you clown,” and find out its fun to call your people ‘yo clown.’ It’s the little details that cause the laughter, like the redneck clown with five teeth and braces; the dirt biker with tire tracks all over his riding suit; the midget cowboy riding the ostrich; the neon one-piece ski suits so bright you have to wear sunglasses. Or that guy wearing the horrid red dress and clown make-up who has to be at work in half an hour and he doesn’t know how to get his clown make-up off. He might just have to sling food with that smile still on his face. On Clown Day there is never a shortage of laughter.

The time, energy, and creativity put into these outfits is amazing. People start months in advance, with creations like the puppet/puppet master all-in-one outfit, or the hand sequined and beaded clown hat/helmet. Clowns use umbrellas instead of ski poles, or bring up a banana and claim it’s their cell phone and shove it in your face saying, “It’s for you.” Reality is altered, if just for the day. Although if you’re one of the clowns, you spend the rest of the year looking and laughing about ideas for next time, giving your imagination a whole new range.

Some clowns wore their season passes from Clown Days of yore and the stack of passes around their necks was two inches thick. The accumulated years of season pass skiing amongst this group is into the hundreds. They’ve clowned like this for a long time. Many are friends because they met at previous Clown Days.

There were somersaults and jumps. Some clown in a race suit and a hotshot attitude hot-dogged a perfect spread eagle. The clowns cheered everyone on, with this year’s cheer reflecting a new attitude, “Go Big, Be Safe.” The blow up doll sat watching quietly and obediently until some clown duct taped her to his back and skied off into the sunset. Advice was exchanged amongst the clowns, “You’d think the elastic would keep the red nose on, but it’s hard to ski with this thing. The secret is super glue.” You hope that it will come off, but laugh because it may never come off. These days, identifying yourself as a clown isn’t the bundle of laughs it used to be.Until next year.