For Bob Savage, being a clown is serious business.
During The Blade Holiday Parade he has a one-track mind and a simple mission: find the children who appear like they could use a smile. While walking along the parade route, he scans the crowd, his eyes bouncing from child to child, looking for the ones who are in need of a smile.
Distractions are all around — the floats, the bitter cold November usually brings, the hollow thumps resonating from the bass drums. There’s a lot on the line. A child’s happiness could be at stake.
Members of the Toledo Clown Corps check out the floats in the Blade Holiday Parade last year.
“A number of us try really hard looking for the kids that need the smiles,” Mr. Savage said. “That’s the fun of it. That’s why we’re there.”
Mr. Savage is the chairman and only original member of the Toledo Distinguished Clown Corps This troupe, comprised of local businessmen and women, is a staple of the annual Holiday Parade.
This year’s parade, sponsored by Taylor Automotive Group and the Distinguished Clown Corps, will get underway at 10 a.m. Saturday in downtown Toledo.
Every year, Mr. Savage, co-founder and past president and CEO of Savage and Associates, swaps out his sleek business suit for a black-and-red clown tuxedo spattered with polka dots.
But for this coterie of local business professionals, being a part of the Clown Corps goes far beyond the silly suits and the face paint. It may appear to be just a group of businessmen and women clowning around, but it’s about community and kids.
“It’s more than marching in the parade,” said Tracy Sallah, vice president of Louisville Title and coordinator of the Clown Corps. “It’s very humbling and rewarding to be a clown, but it’s just a distinguished group of business leaders that come together one day a year and do what they can to put smiles on the kids’ faces.”
To join the Clown Corps, men and women have to pay an annual fee of $500. The money contributed goes to offset the expense to host the parade and to purchase holiday gifts for children in local shelters. The group has grown steadily over the years, reaching an all-time high in membership this year with more than 100 clowns.
Distinguished Clown Corps member Marge McFadden, her niece Katie Hill, Bob Savage, and Susan Sterling before last year's holiday parade.
Jennifer Zalecki, President of Battery Wholesale and a first-year clown, said she decided to join after hearing from other clowns about the joy on young faces.
This year Ms. Zalecki is a balloon clown. She said she looks forward to making her signature balloon creations — a bunny and flower — for the children.
“Hopefully this is a neat tradition for many years to come,” she said.
This ensemble is not circus clowns nor court jesters, but they will perform tricks. In addition to balloons clowns, there are clowns who ride bicycles and clowns who pass out candy.
Mr. Savage never says a word. He prefers to mime.
Like the rest of his fellow clowns, Mr. Savage does greet spectators and pose for pictures.
“There’s a reason these business leaders keep coming back,” Ms. Sallah said. “It gives them an opportunity to give back. But at the end of the day, it’s all about the children on the parade route.”
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