CRIDERSVILLE — In the more than 50 years since the Cridersville Fireman’s Jamboree began, the event’s annual parade has seen dozens of floats come and go. But one family has remained a constant source of entertainment for paradegoers.
Happy’s Family Clown Group, now in its fifth generation, was on hand once again to bring smiles to the faces of people both young and old. The matriarch of the family, 95-year-old Irene Schulz, rode in a golf cart with her son, John Schulz, as the family’s third-, fourth- and fifth-generations blew bubbles and passed out candy to happy onlookers. Each family member was dressed in full clown garb, with painted faces, bright curly hair and colorful clothing.
At least one family member has attended the parade for the last 45 years, except for one Jamboree in the mid-1990s.
“This is like a tradition for our family,” said Chris Mills, who represents the third generation of Happy’s Family Clown Group.
Even though the family now lives in different areas — some still in Cridersville, others in Lima, Bellefontaine and the Indian Lake area — the Jamboree is the one event that brings the group together each year. For many, a Jamboree parade is just not the same without Happy’s bunch.
“Everybody in Cridersville knows about Happy the Clown and they all expect to see us,” Mills said.
Irene Schulz said the tradition began with her husband, who passed on his love of clowning to herself and their children. The family’s matriarch said she’s a little too old to walk the parade, but she still managed to paint her face and ride along with the rest of her family.
In the last four decades, each new generation has taken up the family pastime. Along with Mills, Irene Schulz and John Schulz, 31-year-old Jackie Johnson and two young children, 10-year-old Noah McCoy and 8-year-old Lillian McCoy, joined the rest of the family in Saturday’s parade. It was Noah’s first time dressing up as a clown, and he said he enjoyed the experience.
It took about two hours to put their clown makeup on, but the family said it’s a labor of love that is worth their time and effort.
“We love to light up people’s faces and to see their smiles,” Mills said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Unfortunately, one family member was unable to attend the parade. John Schulz’s wife died in December after a battle with breast cancer, but she was still there in spirit. The family placed a picture of her dressed in a clown costume on the front of the golf cart. The words “Happy supports the cure” donned the side of the cart as a way to raise breast cancer awareness and advocate for more research to help cure the disease.
“She wanted us to continue with the breast cancer theme to help bring awareness, so that’s how we honor her,” Mills said.
For Cridersville Fire Chief Rick Miller, Happy’s Family Clown Group represents the core tenet of what the event is all about.
“We promote this every year as an event that families can come home to,” Miller said. “We like to see past and present family members, especially those who have moved away, come back home and enjoy themselves. That’s what we’re all about.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @Bush_Lima.