Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 25, 2014

Life in a clown's shoes

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Melvino traipsed through Kokomo Thursday in his giant shoes, red nose, suspenders and helicopter beanie.

He juggled pins while riding his unicycle for the kids at the library. He tried to walk the high wire for the students at Bon Air Elementary. They laughed when it didn’t quite work.

It’s just another day in the life of a circus clown.

I sat down with Melvino Thursday to find out what a circus clown’s life is like. I left the interview with two words swirling in my brain – lonely and interesting.

Melvino is a special clown. He travels two weeks ahead of the Kelly Miller Circus to promote it before it arrives.

He performs all by himself in front of children at libraries and schools and elderly people at senior centers and nursing homes.

Sometimes he’s getting them excited about the circus. Other times he’s providing them their own personal circus experience.

“I visit some people who may not be able to make it to the circus,” he said. “I bring a piece of the circus to them.”

In some towns, he just rides up and down Main Street on his unicycle.

The circus sends him to six or seven towns a week from February to October. He drives to each one by himself in his RV.

I asked him if he got lonely… if he ever got tired of traveling alone.

“Driving miles and miles by myself is not always my favorite part,” he replied.

Then he gets in front of an audience, and that loneliness disappears. He gets to show off and put a smile on people’s faces. That’s all he’s ever wanted to do.

Aaron Rider grew up in Maryland. He knew when he was 3 years old that he wanted to be a clown someday.

“Everyone thought I’d grow out it,” he said. “I guess I showed them.”

He laughed when he said that — a weird kind of belly laugh that seemed oddly fitting for a clown.

By age 14, Aaron had taught himself to juggle and ride a unicycle. He took a class to learn how to paint his face just right. He even adopted the name Melvino for his clown persona.

After he graduated, he worked at Hersheypark in Pennsylvania performing a juggling and comedy routine.

All the while, he tried to find a spot in the circus. He sent his resume, photos and videos of himself to circuses across the country. He did that for three years before he got a call from a circus that wanted him for the show.

The rest is history. The 31-year-old has been a circus clown for a decade now. It’s taken him to 43 states so far, and he’ll be checking even more off his list later this year.

This way of life, it’s the only one he knows how to live. When this circus ends in October, he’ll probably join another one to fill the gap, he said.

If he stays in one place for more than two weeks now, he gets bored and is ready to hit the road.

So instead, he wakes up every morning in a strange, new town. He spends an hour applying his clown makeup to become Melvino – the ultimate showman.

Then he does what he knows he was born to do. He entertains.

Someday he might retire. Then again, maybe he won’t.

“I don’t know what else I’d do,” he said.

— Lindsey Ziliak

[friday] editor/ mesmerized by Melvino