One clown who takes his job seriously
By Terry Duffy
You've likely seen him at area community events, dressed in his clown outfit and entertaining the little ones.
But have you ever heard the story behind "Donuts the Clown?"
Niagara Falls resident Jim "Donuts" Donoughe, a member of the Niagara Clown Alley, got his start in this unusual profession as a member of the Village of Youngstown Recreation Department more than 30 years ago. He credits his teaming up with the late Nancy Price who served as its director.
"Nancy, she gave me my big break, as she was one of the first to give me a job working as a balloonist and clown on a regular basis," said Donoughe. "She had me doing baseball games, the Christmas parties, the library one year, and anything else she thought she could use a clown at.
"For her support as a young clown I'm eternally grateful."
Following her death to cancer in the late 1980s, Donoughe stayed on with Youngstown Recreation, working their summer programs and Christmas parties - even the community picnic.
He remains forever grateful to Price for giving him his first break. "Nancy (saw) my talent and skills so many years and that encouragement, I think helped me make the clown I am today. She was the first to believe in me."
Donoughe also works with the Niagara Falls City School District as a teaching assistant. He remains active with Youngstown Recreation, and is seen at events in the Town of Porter, Ransomville and throughout Western New York. Together, with clown friend Carol "Corabelle" Marx, the two are often found entertaining children and adults alike, twisting balloons and face painting at events all over.
One who truly loves the work he does, Donoughe has been "clowning around" literally for more than 33 years. He is a member of the World Clown Association and Clowns of America International. In fact, Donoughe recently attended the 33rd annual Clowns of America International Convention in Richmond, Virginia, where he competed in what he calls the equivalent of the Clown Olympics, winning two third-place medals.
The Clown Olympics?
"Yes," boasts Donoughe. He and a clown friend made the long drive to Richmond in a full van, armed with nerves and tons of enthusiasm to attend his first clown convention ever.
There, "Donuts" competed against characters Pirate Pete and Jiminy the Elf armed with different make-ups and costumes. "This was a thrilling experience," said Donoughe, noting the competition that hailed from Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico and across the U.S.
Included were such events as 2 Face Painting, 3 Balloon, Single Skit, Parade ability as well as Character Clown competitions, where he placed in the top 10 in six of eight events. Donoughe took third place in full Face Painting with his design of a panda eating bamboo, and third in the Single Skit - the Fishing Trip events.
"The competition was tough, with the best of the best competing in every event." Donoughe said he learned various insights in various clowning skills from all the classes and other competitors; he can't wait to start using these in the future.
"The convention was the best eight days of sleepless nights that I ever had. We would jam or get together to teach each other and share various talents with others in balloons, face painting and other skills.
"These jam sessions went into the wee hours, only to wake up early and start competing or attend a class," he said. "It was a non-stop whirlwind of fun and learning; and to win an event was a great experience to be had. I learned new balloons, techniques of face painting, Bubbles, event Paper Roses.
"I didn't want to leave all the exciting times."
At the Falls' Niagara Street School, Donuts works an after-school program where he teaches students his magic and balloon talents. He also helps out at school events such as Family Fun night and Ponderosa Night fundraiser for school activities.
He noted Aug. 1-7 is being observed nationally as "Clown Week," the result of a proclamation in 1971 by former President Richard Nixon - "to commemorate all the hard work that clowns do to spread joy and laughter," said Donoughe.
To mark the occasion, Donuts will be visiting with Falls tourists on Saturday, Aug. 4, and at the Village of Youngstown community picnic in Falkner Park. He adds he'll be doing other random visits throughout the area - all in effort to win the Charlie Award, a contest for clowns sponsored by Clowns of America International.
Part of this involves enlisting "Clown Week" proclamations for local community leaders. Thus far he has received seven such testimonials and welcomes more. Of his goal to win the Charlie, Donuts said he wants "to bring home the plaque showing the big shoe of happiness and joy to Western New York, to show (all) the talents this area has to offer its people."
Wish him luck if you happen to run into him this weekend.