BOARDMAN - Learning ways to entertain others, to select appropriate costume and props, to make yourself marketable and to be the best clown you can were among the many varied workshops and seminars being held this weekend as part of a five-day national clown convention.
The Mid-Atlantic Clown Association Convention is being held this weekend at the Holiday Inn Conference Center in Boardman. More than 125 individuals who are clowns have been attending since Wednesday when the event kicked off.
The convention is marking the 25th anniversary of individuals sharing with one another the art and techniques of being an entertaining and effective clown..
Ta-da! Sullivan and Harold “Hi-5” Stein show what it is like to perform as a clown on stilts during a workshop on the subject.
George ''Porgie the Clown'' Caban of Campbell, president of Assorted Nuts, a local Warren-Youngstown chapter of the national group, said the convention is like a ''clowning boot camp'' for anyone from beginners to advanced who want to learn the art of being a clown.
He said many people are just starting out and want to increase their knowledge about what is involved in being a clown, while others are experienced clowns wanting to learn new things.
''This is for anyone interested in learning the art of clowning from professionals. We hit on many different subjects and hold makeup and skit competitions,'' Caban said.
Caban said areas of clowning covered at the convention include costumes, shoes, stilt walking, face painting, magic, balloon sculpting, puppet shows, blacklight shows, storytelling, skits, and specifically focused hospital, preschool, daycare and nursing home clowning,
Caban said he never imagined he would be a clown for 27 years.
The retired General Motors employee said that while he was still working, he met a man who was a clown who suggested Caban would make a good clown. That kicked off his career, which has included performances at schools, libraries and weddings.
''I feel blessed to do this. I have a lot of fun as a clown and bring out the best in others,'' he said, adding he enjoys visiting and entertaining children.
He said when you are dressed as a clown, you have to learn to read the room because some children at first may be afraid or apprehensive of a clown. He said once they become comfortable, they don't want you to leave.
''I always say if you want a smile or a laugh, hire a clown,'' Caban said.
He said conventions provide people with the opportunity to learn something new. He said he learns new acts, tricks, makeup and costume methods.
''They say the best medicine is laughter. We show how to give that medicine to make people feel better by being a clown. The funny thing is, the medicine you give out to others actually makes you feel good,'' Caban said.
Costumers and props are available from various vendors, including some from as far away as Puerto Rico.
Steve Roeske of West Melbourne, Fla., sells custom clown shoes, which he said can take as long a 12 to 15 hours for him to make. Since 1996, he has made the trademark large and colorful shoes for clowns of hand-cut leather.
Balloon sculpting was among the popular workshops, with Ralph ''Raggs'' Ambrosia of New Springfield showing how to make different animals by tying and twisting balloons.
The husband and wife team of Mark and Debbie ''Spitunia'' Miller of Middlefield was sharing magic tricks that clowns can use for parties, hospital visits and other events.
''This is fun magic that can be done over and over again when a clown walks around,'' said Debbie Miller, who has been clowning since she was a child and has been clowning professionally for the past 15 years.
Mark taught himself magic while serving in the Navy and now teaches other clowns tricks.
''This is a great way of networking and sharing,'' said Debbie Miller about the convention. In fact, she met Mark in 1998 at a clown convention.
Miller said the spectrum of being a clown is very wide and different. ''It is a spectrum that is so wide that it is only limited by your imagination,'' she said.
Joe ''Jocko the Clown'' Sullivan of Boardman received training through the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus College of Clowns. He is a clown on stilts that make him 7 feet high.
Vienna resident Harold ''Hi-5'' Stein also walks around on stilts that make him 10 feet tall, towering over spectators at parades, fairs and shopping centers. Stein said he often looks for big items to use as props so they can be seen by people when he is on stilts.
Pamela Baker and Cheri Zielonka of Clown Antics in Michigan said face painting has become a popular activity at events that include clowns.
Zielonka said boys like superheroes while girls like princesses and kittens painted on them. She said face painting can consist of a small item on the cheek, such as a rainbow, or an entire painted face, which is like dressing up.
Skip ''Dr. Do Dah'' Vincent, who is a minister at Trinity Assembly Church in Fairmont, W.Va., said clowns can cross all denominational barriers and age groups.
''As a clown, you are seen as an innocent individual bringing joy to people's lives. You are not judged like a minister would be,'' Vincent said.
He shares a message through his shows.
So does Flossy ''Blue'' Picariello of Bensalem, Pa., whose clowning ministry is scripture-based and involves mime and interpretative dance. She said her ministry brings the Lord to the eyes of children.
Many who attend the convention believe in continuing education.
Tom ''Brother Sparquee'' Lapaze of Boardman, who is new to clowning, said he learned a lot by attending the convention. He already has entertained at nursing homes and has studied experts in the field.
Caban said he welcomes teachers and librarians who would want to learn more about clowning.
Assorted Nuts meets at 6 p.m. the first Monday of the month at Perkins Restaurant on state Route 46 in Howland.