This question has been asked so many times in so many ways. It came up just before the RNR clowns went to participate in an indoor carnival in Newtown, CT on Dec 29. As you will see from the photos, no one was really in full clown, which is quite appropriate at times like these. However, we all made sure we would be noticed in our own unique ways.
As we have stated in past e-zines and in our workshops, full clown makeup and costumes can be very problematic in a shelter or post-disaster situation. When many are already on edge, the last thing we want to do is potentially frighten someone. It is essential that you dress down, almost like a casual Friday in the clown world. Many times only a clown nose and shoes says it all. In the case of Newtown, we wore vests, hats or head adornments, a clowny tee shirt, maybe funny pants and a big smile that was not painted on. What we have said often proved to be the best policy. Keep it simple! No full clown, no wigs, no face makeup unless it's very subtle and always neat and clean. The people checking us in as we arrived at the town hall never questioned if we were clowns or why we were there.
Here are some other suggestions. You should be sure to have pockets in whatever you are wearing because that is where you can hide away all sorts of what we call "pocket magic,” giveaways and things to play with the crowd in an impromptu manner. When you bring stickers, have enough for everyone who might be there. Avoid giving out candy and nuts as you don't know who might have an allergy or medical condition.
A cautionary note, which might seem obvious but should be addressed, is that however beloved balloons and their magical shapes are, they should never be part of an event following trauma. Balloons pop, even the best of them, and one balloon pop sounds like a gunshot to those who have heard gunshots. This was definitely a consideration in Newtown but is also important to remember if you are doing an event for veterans.
It was suggested by one of the Board members for RNR, Dianna Hale, that we post on our website some guidelines for appropriate attire for RNR responders. That will be coming soon.
A final note, particularly this year and this time of year, is that we encourage all responders to get flu shots. It's not too late. Protect yourselves and those you come in contact with.