Send in the clowns Parade: Downtown will be overrun with funny faces and floppy feet when the city's Thanksgiving Parade steps off on Pratt Street.

Up Front

November 19, 1998|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Sun Staff

Charlotte Raynor's grandkids call her a clown. And she loves it. That's because Raynor is a clown. It's the 64-year-old grandmother's part-time profession. Raynor will be doing her clown thing Saturday at Baltimore's Thanksgiving Parade as part of the Harford Clowns. Her grandchildren are proud.

"You know, it's a funny story how I got started," says Raynor, who works full time as a receptionist. "I was at work, and there was this girl who left work dressed up as a clown. I've always wanted to be a clown and asked her about it. Then I went to a couple of birthday parties with her, and I thought, 'I could do this.' So I attended a class."

That was in 1990, and Raynor has been clowning ever since. She and the Harford Clowns do birthday parties, parades such as the Thanksgiving one, family reunions and hospital visits. She also performs on her own.

Raynor has no thoughts of retiring her clown outfits, because she never tires of seeing the happiness her act generates.

"It's hard to describe what I get out of it," says Raynor, who lives in Joppa. "You make kids smile, and then you smile on the inside. And I mean kids of all ages. Adults too. What I give to people, I get back double."

Raynor now teaches a clown class with Lori Hinman at Essex Community College.

Like Raynor and most other clowns, Hinman's full-time job has nothing to do with balloons, a big red nose, a horn or wide floppy shoes.

Hinman is a computer consultant.

She, too, has always had a soft spot for clowns.

So when Hinman, 34, spotted a notice for a clowning class at a community college, she decided to give it a try.

"It was sort of a whim thing," this clown says. "I've always liked clowns. About 15 years ago, I took a noncredit class at Harford Community College. I am just so glad I did it! As soon as I took it, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. And I've been clowning ever since."

Hinman enjoys teaching others how to let their inner clown out.

"You teach how you are supposed to look, makeup and wardrobe. You teach about keeping your looks consistent and professional. You teach about magic and the skits and the physical comedy. Basically, you teach others how to clown around," Hinman says.

It's fun and satisfying, the women say, but it's also a skill.

"It takes an hour to even put the makeup on," Hinman says.

Hinman gets a lot of joy out of the volunteer work she does as a clown.

"A couple of weeks ago, we did a nursing home show," says Hinman, who also lives in Joppa. "Volunteers don't have to do anything a lot of the time. Just being there makes people smile," she says.

Hinman and Raynor are members of Clowns of America International, which has local chapters all over the country. The two women get together with other local clowns about once a month for informal meetings.

"We try to have an educational class," Raynor says. "We share things about where we can perform. And we practice skits. We are always learning from each other."

The clowns are expected to perform for plenty of adults and youngsters at the popular parade. It kicks off at Pratt and Eutaw streets, near Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The parade continues east on Pratt Street and disbands at Market Place. The reviewing stand will be at Pratt and Light streets.

In addition to clowns, there will be grand marshals Snowden and Raggedy Ann & Andy, and giant balloons. Mascots on hand include the Oriole Bird, the Ravens' Edgar, Allan and Poe, and the Inner Harbor Ice Rink's Perky the Penguin.

Animals will have a big role in the parade.

There will be the League of Maryland Horsemen and their horses, Precious the Skateboard Dog, the Chesapeake Plantation Walking Horse Club and Bruce The Soccer-Playing Dog.

Some of the music and marching bands participating include the Baltimore City College Marching Band, the Mighty Douglass High School Ducks, the Meade High School Marching Band and the North County Knights Marching Band.

The Baltimore Fire Department will display some vehicles, and the Crash Test Seat Belt Dummies will be on the parade route. Of course, a highlight of the parade will be the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, who will be setting up shop at the Harborplace Amphitheatre.

One way to get to the parade is on the MTA's Metro. In celebration of the Metro's 15th anniversary, trains downtown to the parade will be free.

The Facts

What: Baltimore's Thanksgiving Parade

When: Saturday, 11 a.m.

Where: The parade proceeds east on Pratt Street to Market Place from its starting point at Pratt and Eutaw streets, near Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Admission: Free

Call: 410-837-4636 or 800-282-6632, or visit the Web site:

Pub Date: 11/19/98

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