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Kids experience Baraboo’s circus heritage through library clown workshop

August 3, 2018

Baraboo Public Library Director Jessica Bergin looked a bit apprehensive before being pelted with pies outside the library on Thursday.

The barrage of baked goods was led by International Clown Hall of Fame Director Greg DeSanto as part of an annual clown workshop for the library’s summer programming. Bergin, who took the helm at the library in April, had never experienced the sensation of taking a pie to the face, and wasn’t sure what to expect.

“Wondering what it was going to be like to get hit with pies was possibly worse than the actual experience,” Bergin said. “It was sticky and gooey and soapy.”

DeSanto, a longtime professional circus clown, used the moment to teach dozens of kids proper pie throwing techniques. He said communication between clowns on the throwing and receiving end of flying pastries is key to making sure eyes and mouths are closed.

“We use shaving cream, so we have to be safe,” he said. “You have to talk to the person that you’re throwing the pie at so they know that it’s coming.”

The clowns-in-training also got to make crafts, practice balancing on a low beam and had their faces painted. DeSanto also put his makeup on in front of the kids so they could see the entire process from start to finish.

“There’s a lot of work to being a clown – it looks easy, but there’s technique to putting on the makeup, learning the tricks, walking on the high wire and making costume pieces,” he said. “Even with throwing a pie, there’s a little bit of an art to that.”

The clowning workshop is the library’s last family program for the summer, but kids can turn in their “Reado” cards until Saturday. Similar to bingo, participants can earn prizes for filling out rows, and if they complete an entire board, they’ll earn a behind-the-scenes tour of Circus World, the Baraboo Police Department, Baraboo Fire Department or the Oschner Park Zoo.

Library staff said participation in the summer reading program has increased dramatically, creating a need for more space.

“It’s a great problem to have,” Bergin said. “We have so many people coming to participate in the program that we need more space – it’s the best possible scenario really.”

DeSanto has led the clown workshop at the library for four years, and it has become one of the most popular summer programs for the library. He said a highlight of the event is being able to pass on Baraboo’s circus heritage to the next generation.

“They looked like clowns, they walked like clowns and they got hit in the face like clowns,” DeSanto said. “Maybe there’s a future clown in this bunch here.”

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