Clash the clownreturns Nov. 20

Published 10:03 pm Monday, November 15, 2010

Kalamazoo children’s entertainer Anna Wilinski began clowning at age 10

Kalamazoo children’s entertainer Anna Wilinski began clowning at age 10

When performing before an audience of children, many of whom are impatiently fidgeting in line as they await their opportunity to sit upon the lap of St. Nicholas, very few performers outrank the popularity of this leading holiday character and bearded ol’ man.

The exception is Anna Wilinski, a children’s entertainer who began clowning at the age 10 and, as an adult, has gained celebrity status in her hometown of Kalamazoo.

More commonly known as Clash the Clown, Anna returns to downtown Dowagiac on Saturday, Nov. 20, for this community’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Celebration.

The two-part event, presented by Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce and Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital, features the annual Christmas Open House Weekend Nov. 19-21 and continues Friday, Dec. 3, with this community’s 100-unit Candle-light Christmas Parade.

Dowagiac’s holiday celebration was underwritten this year by Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital and five corporate sponsors, which include Matthew Cripe Dental P.C.,  Dr. Charles Burling and Dr. Jon Gillesby, Family Fare, Leader Publications and The Timbers of Cass County.

“As Clash the Clown, Anna has brought much laughter to children during our Summer in the City Festival in July,” said Vickie Phillipson, program director of the Chamber of Commerce and DDA. “When she appears as Twistee the Elf, traditionally Anna not only holds her own, but comes very close to outranking Santa in popularity.”

During the upcoming Christmas Open House Weekend, an Old-World, Victorian Santa will meet with children on Saturday, Nov. 20, from 10 a.m.. to 2 p.m. within the warm and elegant setting of Wood Fire Italian Ttrattoria.

Anna is scheduled to join downtown festivities from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., as she presents children with complimentary, balloon-tied creations that resemble giant-sized red and green candy canes.

For this native of El Paso, Texas, the performance art of clowning is perhaps an inherent talent Anna shares with her mother, known as MT Pockets; and Oceana, her 6-year-old daughter, who at the early age of 3 began to train as a clown.

Anna’s clowning years can be traced back to age 10, when she yearned to visit hospitals, delivering helium balloons to those who were ill.

From that early beginning, while mom and daughter enjoyed clowning as a pastime, in later years it was evident this would become their life’s work.

Anna recalls at her elementary school, they established a clown ministry.

Together, Anna and her classmates twisted balloons, painted faces and held clown health clinics at school festivals.

“We sang and danced and acted silly, and we went as far as shooting ourselves out of cannons,” she recalled.

Although her friends lost interest the older they became, Anna was hooked for life.

Today, while she continues to spend much of her time dressed in bright, silly garb with a painted nose, rosy cheeks and big brilliant eyes, Anna has also developed her artistic skill as a theatrical and full-face painter, receiving awards for both.

Family activities on Open House Saturday, which are headquartered in and aroundBeckwith Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., also feature: horse-drawn wagon rides; the hands-on display by Country Reindeer Farm; stuff your own Teddy bears at Caruso’s; the presentation of a magical story-telling elf and puppeteer at Dowagiac District Library at 11 a.m.; the new Holiday Tails Fashion Show and dog parade at 1 p.m. outside Iconik; and holiday entertainment presented by Dowagiac Union High School choir students, Positively Dance, Encore Dance and Southwestern Michigan College Jazz Quartet.

Families visiting the downtown can enjoy hot chocolate and coffee at the sidewalk booth of Caruso’s Candy Kitchen and something sweet from the booth of Positively Dance.

Christmas Open House Weekend gets underway on Friday, Nov. 19, at 9 a.m. as participating specialty shops open for business.

Shoppers can register for a holiday drawing that awards $200 in Universal Dowagiac Gift Certificates and can enjoy other in-store events at participating locations through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

Shoppers can register for the holiday drawing at Booth’s Country Florist, Hope’s Door Thrift Store, Iconik, Imperial Furniture, Laurie Anne’s, The Marshall Shoppe, Oh My, The Red Raven, Shirley’s Flowers, Wounded Minnow Saloon and Who Knew? Consignment.

New to this year’s celebration is the three-day Old-World Market of Antiques that will be staged within the Front Street entrance to Round Oak Restaurant.

An intimate gathering of antique enthusiasts will feature for sale such vintage items as finely-embroidered linens, estate jewelry, pattern glassware, primitives and furniture.

They will also have available for sale fresh-cut greens and berries.

The antiques show opens Friday at 9 a.m. and runs through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.

Handcrafted works of local artisans will be featured Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the holiday craft show, sponsored by Theta Mu Sorority at Dowagiac Union High School.

Working artisans of jewelry can also be viewed Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Dowagiac’s newest retail location, Frame of Mind Custom Framing and Art Gallery, which is opening adjacent to Underwood Shoes.

Eighteenth and 19th Century re-enactors will display apparel and serve a Victorian-styled high tea with finger foods that were also popular during that bygone era.

For a complete list events and times, call the Chamber of Commerce at (269) 782-8212 to receive its holiday brochure.