The Shrine Association has several different areas where members can volunteer their time, but none is more fun than the clown unit. This weekend, clowns from as far away as Oklahoma were in town to compete in the South Central Shrine Clown Competition.
"We take this very serious — clown serious" laughed Mike "Woody" Bibee. "It takes about 30 minutes to put on the costume, makeup and red nose, but it's a lot of fun. Plus, these guys really — we all really enjoy what we do."
The costumed participants were judged in several categories, including skits and makeup. Chance Robertson from Oklahoma has been clowning around for only eight months. Robertson goes by Pup the Clown and said his face is a work in progress.
"I've been working on my face a little bit at a time, trying to add a little difference to the smile, but the kids ... They love my smile, so I don't know what to change," said Robertson.
Robertson is one of several clowns visiting from Oklahoma and competing in the contest. Lee Roy Adams, also known as Sparky the Clown, got started after losing a challenge 14 years ago.
"A guy handed me a balloon and he said if you can blow this balloon up I will leave you alone and you can join whatever unit you want to. If you can't blow this balloon then we will invite you to join the clowns and we will show you. Obviously, I couldn't blow up the balloon, but I've enjoyed every minute of it," said Adams.
When it comes to balloons, the clowns in attendance really know what they're doing. One of the categories in the competition was balloon-making. Testing their skills on the clock, the judges saw creations of all sorts, including, birds, fish, a weenie dog and rabbits, just to name a few.
While the clowns will tell you it's an opportunity to hang out with other clowns and work on their craft, they admit the real reason for clowning around is to make kids smile and help children.
"Like I always say ... I'll walk a mile to make a child smile," said Will Jones, a.k.a. Desperado the Clown. "I do it for the kids - that is what keeps me going."
To top the competition off, the clowns paraded along the Lake Charles Promenade.