For St. Paul Clown Club, it’s all about having fun

Kristine Steenberg, left, and Denise Chapeau apply their clown makeup. Kristine is a “white-face” clown, while Denise’s makeup is that of an Auguste clown.

Kissa and Sassie (aka Kristine Steenberg and Denise Chapeau) are two members of the St. Paul Clown Club.

Members of the St. Paul Clown Club entertain the crowds at the July Fourth parade in Forest Lake. The fun-loving bunch welcomes new members and makes appearances at events around the Twin Cities year-round.

St. Paul Clown Club

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Attend a St. Paul Clown Club meeting, and it’s immediately apparent this is a jovial group (it is a clown club after all). The sharp-witted bunch is quick to laugh and delights in a new joke or a good pun.

Some members have been “clowning around” for decades, while others are relative newcomers. No matter their longevity, they’re united around a common goal — to make people smile.

Medical research has shown that laughter has many health benefits, so it was no joking matter when the World Clown Association announced last month that there’s a national shortage of clowns.

Longtime St. Paul Clown Club member Jim Joyce of St. Paul believes one reason for the decline is the modern-day myth that all kids are afraid of clowns, something he says couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Most kids react to clowns with excitement and run up to us to shake our hands,” Joyce says.

“Sure there are a few children who hide behind their parents, but the vast majority are happy to see us.”

Joyce says the St. Paul Clown Club members come from all walks of life and range in age from 30 to 90. The group welcomes new members and introduces them to the world of clowning.

The first year, membership is free and newcomers receive a sample makeup kit. “We train them how to be a clown,” Joyce says. “We give them tips and simple gimmicks to help them interact with the crowds.”

An imaginative, joyful world

Joyce says people enter the club through many different avenues.

Kristine Steenberg of St. Paul recalls she was searching for a Halloween costume at a thrift stop and settled on a clown outfit. At the time she thought she would wear it once and then donate it back to the store.

She never could have foreseen that the purchase would lead her into the imaginative, joyful world of clowning and a membership in the club. But it did.

Kristine explains a family friend and club member, Denise Chapeau, discovered that an extra clown was needed for a summer parade. Knowing Kristine owned a clown costume, Denise asked if she would walk in the parade.

“I agreed to help out — that one time,” Kristine recalls with a chuckle.

“It was a massive parade, and I was so shy. But it turned out to be so much fun.”

She was hooked after that outing, and before long adopted her clown name - Kissa - and joined the club.

“Now I love it!” says Kristine, who is in her 30s.

Denise says she, too, entered the clown world in a roundabout way. The East Side St. Paul resident was painting children’s faces at a craft show, when a woman stopped by and asked if she was a clown. Denise replied she wasn’t a professional clown, but she thought clowning would be fun.

The woman gave her a business card for a clown club, and since the dues were only $10 a year, Denise decided to give it a try.

It didn’t take long before she knew she had found a creative pastime that she could enjoy well into the future.

Kris Stadler of Maplewood remembers going to a parade where there were “so few clowns that I thought that was sad. My husband, Leo, and I thought it would be nice to join the clown club. Clowning was something we could do together, and make people smile and laugh.

“Our first event was the White Bear Avenue Parade, and we had a great time. A lot of people wanted to have their picture taken with me, which was really a surprise,” she says, chuckling at the memory.

Chuckling is something this group does a lot.

Making people happy

Some members, like Denise, whose clown name is Sassie, are experts at creating balloon critters. Others do magic tricks and juggle in order to bring smiles to people’s faces.

The St. Paul Clown Club takes part in summer parades, and members are available for appearances at corporate parties, wedding receptions (where they keep kids entertained), birthday parties, grand openings and much more.

The club meets on the second Thursday of the month at Galilee Lutheran Church in Roseville.

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a clown, or to have clowns entertain your guests at an upcoming event, call Denise Chapeau at 651-353-0437.

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