There’s no place better than the Davis Farmer’s Market on a balmy Wednesday evening. Sure, it’s warm, but you’ve scored a deal on half-priced tuber roses and are ready to down a cold drink or sample the homemade popsicles you just forked over a fiver for. Lying on the grass, listening to live tunes, you barely notice the heat. Children saunter by in their cotton sundresses and the family next to you shares a glass of lemonade. It’s a perfect night.
Unless, of course, you’re sporting candy-striped tights, a fifteen pound apron, and an orange, polyester-blend wig. If you happen to be molding a set of latex incisors for a purple dinosaur and have a twelve-inch balloon monkey swinging from the top of your straw hat, you might feel a little parched. And you might be second guessing your decision to wear that spangled pair of rodeo boots. You might be feeling the heat.
That is, unless you’ve earned your degree in Clown-ology and mastered the fine art of ballooning. In that case, you’d be so busy cajoling the kindergarten set, you wouldn’t have time to even think about the mercury that’s steadily rising.
Silly Dilly, the cherubic-faced clown and balloon artist (who prefers not to reveal her true name), draws a wiggly crowd at tonight’s Farmer’s Market. A small army of children circle around the pig-tailed clown, who twists and ties an inflatable menagerie right before their eyes.
After an accident ended her horse training career, life handed this Woodland native an unexpected twist: “Clown College came shortly after the accident,” says Ms. Dilly, “and that’s where Silly Dilly was born.”
“I was signed up to attend school to become a massage therapist,” recalls Dilly, “when a nurse told me about Clown College.”
The nurse had been admiring the rodeo clown costume that Dilly had worn to her doctor’s appointment one Halloween day.
“I’d never heard of that before and went home and looked it up on the internet,” says Dilly.
Shortly thereafter, Dilly attended Clown College at the Circus Circus in Reno, and has spent the past seven years tending her thriving business as a professional clown.
Surprisingly, there are many avenues that can be explored if one decides to work toward a degree in Clown-ology. Whether it’s a course at a community center during one’s spare time or a full-fledged diploma in Circus Arts, there are classrooms around the country where aspiring performers can go to sharpen their acts.
Instruction in face painting, balloon twisting, magic tricks, and costuming can provide the basics for a beginning clown. Many clown schools even offer business courses in branding and bookkeeping to help get one’s career off on the right floppy-shoed foot.
“I came out of clown college knowing how to make a bunny, kitty, doggy, and a flower,” recalls Dilly.
She’s certainly come a long way since then. Not only can her creations be seen on children at festivals and fairs throughout Northern California, her balloon designs were even featured in a book by Klutz Publishing, entitled The Klutz Book of Balloon Twisting.
“That book couldn’t have been made without [Silly Dilly],” says Mike “Funnybone” Ianneo, fellow contributor and Bay Area entertainer with more than thirty years of clowning experience.
“She’s a great all-around clown,” continues Ianneo. “She’s got that country-girl kind of innocence, mixed with a little rough-and-tumble. Just what a clown needs.”
The crowd at the Davis Farmer’s Market seems to agree. Parents joke with Dilly as she fills the balloons, popping unnecessary extremities here and there with a loud “Bang!”
“Did you do that?” Dilly teases one father as his waiting children giggle and nod.
“Where did you learn to do that?” exclaims a grandmother. “Look at his teeth!”
Dilly beams at the children who stare up at her in awe.
“When I first started,” says Dilly, “I’d have to take some Tylenol when I woke up in the morning. My cheeks hurt so bad from smiling! My cheeks are in shape now. I can smile for a week straight!”
And it looks like her cheeks aren’t the only ones getting a workout, judging from the grins of her many happy customers.
For more information about Silly Dilly, visit her website at: www.dilly-dallytheclown.com
For more information about Mike “Funnybone” Ianneo, visit his website at: www.funnyclown.com