Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

May 23, 2013

Clowning around at ClownTown

Sonya Vartabedian

---- — I don’t even really like dressing up for Halloween.

So I’m not sure what possessed me to entertain the idea of putting on a clown suit for ClownTown.

Even before I officially took over as editor of The Townsman last month, I started hearing about this event that transforms The Park across from the newspaper’s office at Chestnut and Bartlet streets into a family carnival every spring.

I thought kiddie rides, carnival games, face painting, cotton candy.

Then I started talking to members of the Andona Society and learned that, yes, ClownTown was all of that, but so much more.

They spoke of an event that unites the community around a singular cause of supporting programs, activities and opportunities that benefit the town’s young people. They described an attraction that at its core is simple, wholesome, family fun. For many people, they said, it’s the highlight of the year.

I had to see for myself. And I thought the best way to do that would be to gain an insider’s perspective.

So with the permission of the Andona Society, I slipped on a pair of big, floppy, red clown feet; a silly orange polka-dotted hat, and neon pink-and-black striped stockings and set off to discover the magic of ClownTown.

One step into The Park with my oversized feet and I quickly got a sense of the spirit that embodies this community through the passion that runs all throughout ClownTown.

The Park was filled with people who care about the town in which they live and want nothing more than to pitch in and make it better — whether by becoming the next victim in the dunk tank, selling tickets at a booth or simply supporting the cause by enjoying the weekend’s festivities.

I learned of one woman who quietly placed a folded check into the hand of this year’s ClownTown chairwoman and walked away before anyone realized the effort just became $100 richer.

I experienced the joy of putting smiles on the faces of young children, who got a kick out of posing with a “real-life” clown before running off to hop on one of the rides or get their faces painted.

Before anyone knew it, ClownTown’s last amusement ride took its final spin and The Park emptied out. A couple hours later, Andona Society members rejoiced in their unofficial tally — they had earned a record-breaking $40,000 in just two days to parcel out to local youth.

It takes an army of women working behind the scenes to pull off what looks like a seamless event. A toot of my clown horn to the Andona Society for making it appear so effortless. And an extra toot to Andover, for being the kind of community where ClownTown can thrive and prosper for more than 50 years.