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Have no fear: It’s almost National Clown Week

J. H. Osborne • Jul 30, 2019 at 3:15 PM

If you suffer from coulrophobia, you might have a rough week beginning Thursday.

On August 2, 1971, President Richard Nixon issued the "National Clown Week By the President of the United States of America A Proclamation."

Each year since, Aug. 1-7 is National Clown Week (some say it has grown into an international event).

Coulrophobia, by the way, is a name made up to describe people with a fear of clowns.

Nixon's proclamation, which came after Congress passed a law calling for the first seven days of August to be declared National Clown Week, heralded clowns for their work to make others happy — especially the elderly and the young.

How It All Began

In 1966, Ray Bickford, then president of the Clown Club of America, appointed Frank Kelly as the first International Clown Week Chairman. Kelly urged members to write their congressmen and senators requesting a presidential proclamation naming the first seven calendar days of August as National Clown Week. In 1969, a resolution was introduced.

Meetings were conducted with Sen. John McClellan of Arkansas, who was chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Observances and Holidays, and success was finally achieved. On Oct. 8, 1970, Public Law 91-443 under the 91st Congress, JJR 26 was passed by both the House and Senate and was sent to Nixon for his signature.

Nixon's proclamation

It reads, in part: "All across America good men in putty noses and baggy trousers following a tradition as old as man's need to touch gently the lives of his fellowman, go into orphanages and children's hospitals, homes for the elderly and for the retarded, and give a part of themselves. Today, as always, clowns and the spirit they represent are as vital to the maintenance of our humanity as the builders and the growers and the governors.

"In the folklore of the world is the persistent claim that the heart of a clown is sad, and that all the gladness he provokes is simply a facade for the pain he cannot reveal to the world. In the myth is the kernel of reason: the clown leaves happiness where he goes, and takes misery away with him.

"Yet we cannot suppose there is real truth in the myth. For surely the laugh-makers are blessed: they heal the heart of the world.

"I urge the people of the United States recognize the contributions made by clowns in their entertainment at children's hospitals, charitable institutions, for the mentally retarded, and generally helping to lift the spirits and boost the morale of our people.”

FAQ

Q: Is it National Clown Week or International Clown Week ?

A: It started out as National Clown Week. When Clowns of America reorganized and became Clowns of America International in 1991, they decided to rename National Clown Week to International Clown Week. Most clowns just refer it to as Clown Week.

Q; Who is the sponsor of Clown Week?

A: While the clown group Clowns of America International is considered the sponsor of Clown Week, many clown groups from the around world celebrate Clown Week, including those from World Clown Association (USA), Clowns Canada (Canada), Shrine Clown Association (USA) and Clowns International (UK)

Q: What do clowns and clown groups do to celebrate Clown Week?

A: Celebrations take on a variety of forms. Such as putting on shows in malls, child care centers, hospitals and nursing homes. The celebration also includes educational events about clowns and fundraisers for numerous charitable causes. Clowns also appear in parades, at grand openings and  other places.

Q: How many clowns celebrate Clown Week ?

A: Clown groups have a membership of more than 10,000 clowns, and all clowns do not belong to a clown group. So our guess is that there are more than 20,000 clowns worldwide.

Sources: Clowns of America International (http://mycoai.com; www.internationalclownweek.org; www.nationalclownweek.org.

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