Every August, Clown Alley 179 cranks up the chuckles

Janet Comesky, of the Village of Glenbrook, as Hop-Scotch the Clown waves while riding through Lake Sumter Landing with Annemarie Prioriello as Ravioli the Clown during a Clown Alley 179 golf cart parade celebrating National Clown Week in August 2020.

In honor of International Clown Week, held the first week in August and started by a proclamation by President Richard Nixon in 1971, the resident clown troupe has several events happening throughout The Villages.

“(The idea is) to celebrate being a clown in the community,” group leader Annemarie “Ravioli” Prioriello said.

On Monday, several members will attend the Lady Lake Town Commission meeting during which they will receive a proclamation about International Clown Week.

On Tuesday, the group will head out to Spanish Springs Town Square from 4 to 7 p.m. to do face paintings. Then from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, the clowns will go to Lake Sumter Landing Market Square to make and hand out balloon creations.

On Aug. 5, a clown golf cart caravan will take over Brownwood Paddock Square starting at 10:30 a.m.

The golf cart parade came to life last year as a way to celebrate International Clown Week during the pandemic. The two excursions were a big hit with residents.

“They were great,” Prioriello said. “People lined up with their chairs like it was the Macy’s parade. They had a good time.”

On Aug. 6, the clowns will walk around from 5 to 7 p.m. at Ednas’ on the Green to entertain patrons.

The Finale

The week caps off with the group’s open house to be held from 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 7 at Colony Cottage Regional Recreation Complex. The event is free and open to Villages residents and their guests with proper ID. People can drop in any time that morning to see what Clown Alley is all about.

The group will have popcorn, as well as some minute-to-win-it games to play. People can watch a short video of some of Clown Alley’s skits.

The Villages Model Railroad Club will have its circus train display up and running.

“It’ll be a fun day for everyone,” said Prioriello, of the Village Alhambra.

In addition, members will make balloon buddies to give to first responders, as well as balloon cups to be delivered to recreation centers.

Passion for Clowning

Sue Blalock, who also goes by the name Bookworm, plans to be a part of a couple of the events during the week, including the open house. She has been a clown for five years. Going by her clown name, she especially enjoys reading to local schoolchildren.

She happened to go to one of Clown Alley’s open houses five years ago and discovered her new calling.

“I love it,” said Blalock, of the Village of Liberty Park.

Pat “Pattie Hattie” Reilly is getting ready for the balloon creations event at Lake Sumter Landing.

Reilly received her name from her wearing a big hat at water aerobics classes, where they called her Pat in the Back with a Hat. When it came time to figure out her clown name, the others wanted her to keep that nickname, but she ended up shortening it to Pattie Hattie.

“I have a lot of hats,” said Reilly, of the Village of Amelia.

Prioriello became a member of Clown Alley 179 in 2011.

“I wanted to dress up,” she said. “It was a way to give back some.”

She bestowed herself the clown name of Ravioli in honor of her Italian heritage. She enjoys doing a bit of all of the clowning activities.

“I’m OK at a whole bunch of stuff,” she said.

If you feel the call of the clown, the Enrichment Academy offers an introductory clown class, which will begin in October, showing residents the basics in becoming a clown. Beckie “Tooter” Montgomery and Sharon “Bling Bling” Dwyer handle teaching duties.

“Everybody can step in and do it,” Prioriello said.

Staff writer Michael Fortuna can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5273, or michael.fortuna@thevillagesmedia.com.